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19 medals, 17 superstars, 1 unforgettable fortnight

19 medals, 17 superstars, 1 unforgettable fortnight

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Going into the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, India had won 12 medals (4 golds) in the history of the Paralympics. A fortnight in Japan later, that tally is now at 31 medals (9 gold, 12 silver, 10 bronze).

Meet the 17 Indian superstars who won 19 medals (5 gold, 8 silver, 6 bronze) en-route smashing records and creating history in the Tokyo Paralympics 2021.

India at Tokyo 2021 Paralympics: All results and medals | Full squad

Avani Lekhara, 19 | Shooting

She was 10 when a serious car accident injured her spinal cord and made her dependent on a wheelchair. She took up shooting after reading Abhinav Bindra’s autobiography.

How she did it

Created a Paralympic record and equalled the world record en-route winning gold in the SH1 10m air rifle. Three days later, she suited up and won bronze in the SH1 50m 3p rifle.

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What she said

“I just think that I have to follow the process. Beyond that, I try not to think about the score or the medal tally.”

Further reading

From sleepless fifth place to gold-getter: How shooting made a champ of Avani Lekhara


Sumit Antil, 23 | Athletics (Javelin)

He was a budding wrestler when his left leg had to be amputated after a road accident. Which is when he turned to javelin.

How he did it

Sumit broke his own world record three times in the space of six throws as he cantered to gold in the F64 javelin. It was one of the great track and field displays in Paralympics Games history.

What he said

“This is my first Paralympics and I was a little nervous because the competitors are great. [The performance] was not my best, [but] I am very happy to break the world record.”

Further reading

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2 golds, 2 silvers, 1 bronze — recapping one of Indian sport’s most iconic days


Manish Narwal, 19 | Shooting

A congenital impairment in his right hand meant Manish couldn’t pursue his dream of being a footballer [He’s a big Leo Messi fan]. He picked up shooting 4 years ago.

How he did it

Manish broke the Paralympic record en-route winning gold in the mixed SH1 50m pistol.

What he said

“I want to thank my family, coaches and all the Indians from the bottom of my heart for this medal.”


Pramod Bhagat, 33 | Badminton

Affected by polio at five years old, he developed a defect in his left leg. He took up badminton in his teens, and is now a four-time world champion.

How he did it

Pramod won gold in the men’s singles SL3 badminton. He won all his four matches through the tournament, dropping just one game (against compatriot Manoj Sarkar).

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What he said

“I played the same opponent in Japan two years ago and I lost. That was a learning opportunity for me. Today it was the same stadium and the same environment, and I devised a strategy to win. I was very determined.”

Further reading

Archive: Four-time world champion Pramod Bhagat silently living the big Paralympics dream


Krishna Nagar, 22 | Badminton

Diagnosed with dwarfism when he was just two years old, Nagar took up badminton as a hobby in 2017.

How he did it

Krishna won gold in the men’s singles SL6 badminton.

What he said

“Olympics or Paralympic medal is a huge thing. We committed that we will win 5-6 medals and we have won 4 medals.” – Krishna on the badminton team’s performance in Tokyo.


Bhavinaben Patel, 34 | Table Tennis

She contracted polio when she was just one, making her dependent on a wheelchair. When pursuing an industrial training course she picked up table tennis for fun.

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How she did it

Bhavinaben won silver in the women’s singles class 4. Her only two losses at these Games came against the world no. 1, Zhang Miao. She defeated the world no. 9, 8, 3 and 2 on her way to the final.

What she said

“I want to tell all the ladies out there trying to break away the stereotypes to believe in themselves and just go for it.”


Nishad Kumar, 21 | Athletics (High jump)

Fourteen years ago, Nishad lost his right hand in a fodder cutting machine. Two years after that he would take to athletics, but only started competing in the para category in 2017.

How he did it

Nishad equalled his own Asian record en-route winning silver in the men’s T46/47 high jump. Ahead of him, the gold medalist Roderick Townsend beat (his own) world record.

What he said

“I could not believe that I had won a silver at the Paralympics. I asked four officials before I could actually believe it.”


Devendra Jhajharia, 40 | Athletics (Javelin throw)

When he was 8, he touched a live electric cable when climbing a tree, forcing the amputation of his left hand. He has since gone on to become one of the greatest athletes India has ever produced — having won two Paralympic golds prior to Tokyo (2004, 2016).

How he did it

He won his third Paralympic medal, a silver in the F46 javelin throw, breaking his previous world record. Dinesh Herath of Sri Lanka, though, beat that mark to win gold.

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What he said

“The children would make fun of me and call me weak. And I just wanted to prove I was strong. I picked up the javelin to show I was not kamzor [weak].”

Further reading

Devendra Jhajharia is 40, has three medals – and sets his sights on more

Didn’t want to be known as a weakling – Devendra Jhajharia


Yogesh Kathuniya, 24 | Athletics (Discus throw)

Yogesh suffered a paralytic attack (due to GB Syndrome) at 8 years old which left him with impaired limb coordination. Took up athletics after joining college thanks to encouragement from friends.

How he did it

Yogesh won silver in the F56 discus throw. Gold medalist Claudiney Batista dos Santos of Brazil set a new Paralympic record.

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What he said

“It was a great moment that I could win the silver medal without a coach.”

“I was just one metre away from the gold medal here, but in Paris I will want to break the world record.”


Mariyappan Thangavelu, 26 | Athletics (High jump)

Mariyappan’s right leg had to be amputated below the knee at the age of five after it was run over by a drunk bus driver. He had won gold in the T63 high jump in the 2016 Paralympic Games.

How he did it

Mariyappan won silver in the T63 high jump. Gold was won by three-time reigning champion Sam Grewe.

What he said

“I could have won gold and claimed the world record. I came here with that aim. But the rain played spoilsport.”

Further reading

Mariyappan Thangavelu: winner against all the odds


Praveen Kumar, 18 | Athletics (High jump)

Praveen has a congenital impairment which affects the bones that connect his hip to his left leg.

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How he did it

Praveen won silver in the men’s T64 high jump. Gold was won by Rio silver-medalist Jonathan Broom-Edwards of Great Britain.

What he said

“I can’t explain how I feel. This jump was ecstatic. This is my first Paralympic Games and I am waiting to see what lies ahead.”


Singhraj Adana, 39 | Shooting

Singhraj suffers from a limb impairment after being afflicted by polio at a young age. At one stage of his sporting career, he had found it difficult to make ends meet — his wife had to sell her jewellery to support his dream.

How he did it

He won silver in the SH1 mixed 50m pistol, behind compatriot Manish Narwal. Earlier, he had also won a bronze in the P1 10m air pistol.

What he said

“My mother only asked me to ensure that we are able to feed ourselves later on if something went wrong,” after he was forced to make a range at his home to continue practice during lockdown.


Suhas Yathiraj, 38 | Badminton

He suffers from an impairment to one of his ankles, and is a serving IAS officer — he, in fact, took up badminton seriously at the civil services academy. He’s currently the District Magistrate of Noida.

How he did it

Suhas won silver in the men’s singles SL4 badminton. Gold went to two-time defending world champion Lucas Mazur of France.

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What he said

“Very emotional (moment). I have never been so happy and so disappointed in my life at the same time. Most happy because of the silver medal but most disappointed because I missed the gold medal by a whisker.”


Sundar Singh Gurjar, 25 | Athletics (Javelin throw)

Gurjar used to compete in the general category before he lost his left palm in 2015, when a metal sheet was dropped on him at his friend’s house. He’s now a two-time para world champion.

How he did it

Sundar won bronze in the men’s F46 javelin.

What he said

“I am extremely elated to have won a medal in Tokyo. In Rio 2016 I was disqualified, now I have won bronze.”

Further reading

‘Big thing to be the first Indian to win gold at the world championships’


Sharad Kumar, 29 | Athletics (High jump)

At the age of two, Sharad suffered paralysis of his left leg after reportedly being given fake polio medication at a local eradication drive. He started high jump in school.

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How he did it

Sharad won bronze in the men’s T63 high jump, behind compatriot Mariyappan Thangavelu.

What he said

“I had an injury on my leg, meniscus dislocated (a type of knee injury) yesterday. I thought of pulling out today but spoke to my family back home. They said just go ahead.”

Further reading

Sharad Kumar extends career, Ukraine stay and discovers stocks


Harvinder Singh, 31 | Archery

He had lost the ability to move his legs properly when he was a year and half old, due to the adverse effects of an injection during a bout of dengue. He took up archery while pursuing a doctorate in economics.

How he did it

Harvinder won bronze in the individual recurve open, becoming the first ever Indian archer to medal at the Paralympics.

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What he said

“Economics is all about calculations and I applied that in my game and my thinking process. It really helped me in winning the medal.”


Manoj Sarkar, 31 | Badminton

Sarkar contracted Polio when he was one, and this affected his right leg. He took up the sport at an early age and was spurred on by a desire to beat his elder brother. He has since won three World Championships.

How he did it

Manoj won bronze in the men’s singles SL3 badminton.

What he said

“[This] result is a testimony of what sheer grit & hard work can achieve with the right support.”


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