While the country was vacillating in its reactions between the extremes of success and failure at the 2016 Rio Olympics, an equally powerful battalion of sportsmen are representing the country away from all the paparazzi. The Rio Paralympics 2016 is held at Rio de Janeiro from September 7-18. Organised once every four years, Paralympics is curated for athletes who suffer from various disabilities. This year, we will see as many as 4,300 athletes competing for medals in 23 disciplines. India has sent its largest delegation to the Rio 2016 Olympics, but Paralympics will also be represented by 19 athletes.
In order to promote equality in sports, the event marks its presence with high energy and helps all the athletes enhance their skill on an international podium. The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has recognised over 10 categories of impairment, in muscle power, impaired passive range of movement, limb deficiency, leg length difference, short stature, hypertonia, ataxia, athetosis, vision impairment and intellectual impairment.
The Indian contingent includes Amit Kumar Saroha (Club throw), Ankur Dhama (1,500m), Basha Farman (Powerlifting), Dharambir (Club throw), Devendra Jhajaria (Javelin throw), Mariyappan Thangavelu (High jump), Narender Ranbir (Javelin Throw), Naresh Kumar Sharma (Shooting), Rinku, Rampal Chahar (High jump), Suyash Narayan Jadhav (Swimming), Sandeep (Javelin), Sharad Kumar (High jump), Sundar Singh Gurjar (Javelin throw), Varun Singh Bhati (High Jump), Virender Dhanka (Javelin, Shotput) from the men squad. The women squad includes Pooja (Archery), Deepa Malik (Shot put), Karamjyoti Dalal (Discus).
Though the event has not had its due recognition nor support from the government and media, Rio Paralympics 2016 is already a matter of pride for many reasons. The country will be sending athletes like Ankur Dhama, who owns the tag of being the first blind athlete to represent India, along with Devendra Jhajharia, who was the first Paralympic medalist in Javelin in the year 2004. On the other hand, Deepa Malik (Shot put) already has 54 gold medals won at events on the national level, as well as 13 international medals.
Thirty-one-year-old Haryana lad Amit Kumar Saroha is all set after his successful stint at the French Open Athletics Championship in May. This club throw representative has won one gold medal and two silver medals in Para Asian games and is considered to be one of the most decorated para athletes.
The event is also highlighted by the participation of Mariyappan Thangavelu who won a medal at the IPC Grand Prix this July. This Tamil Nadu athlete will be competing in the T42 High Jump Category. Suyash Jadhav became the only swimmer to qualify for 50 m butterfly event.
This edition’s opening ceremony will be held at the Maracana Stadium, Rio De Janeiro on Sept 7. But in an obvious show of disregard by the authorities in the country, the government has decided to not buy broadcasting rights for Rio Paralympics 2016. The para athletes have pointed out that at a time when the government has undertaken Accessible India programme and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spoken about disability in Mann ki Baat the crucial event would be missed by the country. The country has so far won eight medals including two gold, three silver and three bronze.
However, Indian Sports Ministry has announced that the Paralympics medallists will be given cash awards at par with the medal winners of last month's Olympics. The Indian gold medallists from the Paralympic Games will be awarded Rs 75 lakh, the silver medalists will get Rs 50 lakh, while Rs 30 lakh will be given to the bronze medallists.