Indian paralympian Mariyappan Thangavelu, who scripted history at Rio Paralympics 2016 by clinching a gold medal, has donated Rs 30 lakh from the prize money towards his school, ANI reported on Monday.
Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa announced a Rs 2 crore award for the athlete and will also receive Rs 75 lakh earmarked for the gold medallists at Rio 2016 event by the Sports Ministry. In a heartwarming gesture, Thangavelu has pledged Rs 30 lakh of this prize money to his government school in Salem.
He hails from Periyavadagampatti, which is a village located 50 km from Salem in the western part of the state. Thangavelu was merely five-years-old when his right leg was crushed by a speeding bus.
“I was told the driver was inebriated. It doesn’t matter. My right leg is now stunted — it is still a five-year-old’s leg; it has never grown or healed,” Thangavelu had told The Hindu in an exclusive interview.
At his government school, Thangavelu started participating in high jump competitions at the advice of his physical education teacher, R Rajendran. In his first-ever event, he secured second place against able-bodied athletes.
Mariyappan won the medal in the T-42 High Jump event with a best effort of 1.89m, leaving behind world champion Sam Grewe of the USA who registered 1.86m.
The T-42 classification is for athletes with lower limb deficiency, leg length difference, impaired muscle power or impaired range of movement.
The 21-year-old paralympian's moving gesture is an effort on his part to give back to his community. His mother, who now sells vegetables to make a living, took out a loan of Rs 3 lakh for his medical treatment and is still paying it off.
At Rio 2016, he joined Murlikant Petkar (1972, swimming) and Devendra Jhajharia (2004, javelin throw) in the exclusive Indian Paralympics gold club.
He has also been honoured as the country's flag-bearer for the closing ceremony of the Rio Games on 18 September.
— Rio 2016 (@Rio2016_en) September 10, 2016
#RioParalympics gold-medallist Mariyappan Thangavelu donates Rs 30 lakh from the prize money to his govt school.
— ANI (@ANI_news) September 12, 2016
Thangavelu Mariyappan will take lead as the flag bearer of the closing ceremony at the Paralympic Games 2016! pic.twitter.com/wzh7SmRSrj
— @ioa (@ioaindia) September 12, 2016