Devendra Jhajharia became India's second gold medal winner at the Rio Paralympics on Tuesday after he broke his own world record with a throw of 63.7m in the men's F46 Javelin Throw.
Jhajharia's historic effort came in his third attempt. But he was comfortably leading the field through the competition, and never looked in doubt of losing out on his second gold medal in his second appearance at the Paralympics.
He first participated at the 2004 Athens Paralympic Games at the age of 24. That appearance was no different, as he created a new world record with a throw of 62.15m to become India's first gold medalist. But due to the F46 classification not being included in the subsequent 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Paralympics, Jhajharia didn't get the opportunity to break his own record earlier.
The Rajasthan born athlete, with an amputated left hand, was awarded the Arjuna award in 2004 and the Padma Shri in 2012, becoming the first Paralympian to receive the honour.
The F46 classification is an impairment type for upper limb/s affected by limb deficiency, impaired muscle power or impaired range of movement according to the IPC Athletics classifications, as reported by the Paralymics.org website.
Jhajharia recounted the story of how he had his arm amputated in an interview with The Hindu.
"I must have been eight or nine years old when I got an electric shock. I was climbing a tree in my village in the Churu district of Rajasthan and accidentally touched a live cable, which was apparently an 11,000-volt cable. So severe was the accident that let alone my left hand — it had to be amputated right away — nobody was sure whether I would be able to recover from it," he was quoted as saying.
However, he took up sport because he felt he was blessed to still have an arm. "When I looked around, I saw a lot of people who didn’t have arms or legs and I realised that I am lucky enough to have my right hand. I was interested in sports and that was enough motivation for me," he said according to the Paralympics.org website
Since then, Jhajharia has gone from strength to strength, overcoming all the obstacles in his path. In an interview with Livemint he had said, “Whenever I went for competitions, people would look at me, then say that someone has recommended me, that’s why I’m here. But then they used to see me throw the javelin and would come and tell me, ‘Sorry we said that; you really are a champion’. But I was used to it since everyone used to look at me like that. Winning the district championship, though, gave me a big boost; that was the turning point in my life.”
That and his first medal at the age of 21 at the 2002 Far East and South Pacific Games for the Disabled in Korea, gave him confidence in his ability at international events. The 2004 Athens Paralympics was a step in the right direction as Jhajharia made history by becoming the first gold medal winner in the Paralympics for India at Athens.
Jhajharia has had to wait for 12 years to participate in the Paralympics yet again, since his F46 classification was not part of the next two Games.
“Ye to jaise Kumbh ke mele ka intezaar hai (This is like waiting for the Kumbh mela),” said the 36-year old to Livemint.
His confidence in Indian Paralympians' ability is telling, as his prediction of six to seven medals at the Paralympics is close to completion. With two golds, a silver and bronze apiece, the Rio 2016 Paralympics are India's best performance at the event till date.
Devendra Jhajharia's two gold medals at the Paralympics, an event at par with the Olympics, makes him the torchbearer for Indian sports alongside the likes of Abhinav Bindra and MC Mary Kom.
Here is his world record shattering throw.
— All India Radio News (@airnewsalerts) September 14, 2016