Rio Paralympics: Mariyappan Thangavelu wins India's first gold, Varun Bhati settles for bronze


India's two Paralympians Mariyappan Thangavelu and Varun Bhati created history at the Rio Paralympics 2016 by winning gold and bronze respectively held at Rio De Janeiro.

Mariyappan Thangavelu (L) and Varun Bhati(R) after winning their medals

The 21-year-old Thangavelu cleared a jump of 1.89 metres to strike gold on Friday (September 9). Thangavelu is the first Indian to win a gold in Paralympics high jump. It was a memorable event for India as another athlete - Varun Singh Bhati took bronze. USA's Sam Grewe took the silver.

India now has two medals - gold and bronze at the ongoing Paralympics. At the Rio Olympics 2016, which concluded on August 21, India claimed two medals - silver and a bronze.

T-42 is a disability sport classification for differently-abled track and field athletes with single 'above the knee' amputations or a disability that is comparable. After Thangavelu and Bhati's feat, India's overall medal tally in all Paralympic games has reached 10 - three golds, three silvers and four bronze. At the 2012 Paralympics, HN Girisha became the first Indian high-jumper to win a medal.

Mariyappan is a 20-year-old hailing from a small village of Periavadagampatti, 50km from Salem, in Tamil Nadu. He met with a bus accident at the age of five, which left him with a permanent disability. He was going to school when the bus took a wrong turn and ran over Thangavelu's right leg, damaging it below knee. But that tragedy couldn't stop Thangavelu from pursuing his dreams. In his first competition, he competed with able-bodied athletes and finished second. His rise has been steady since then. In March, Thangavelu cleared a height of 1.78m at the IPC Grand Prix in Tunisia, to achieve the A-Qualification Standard of 1.60 at Paralympics.

Also read : Away from Olympics limelight, another army of gritty sportspersons sweat away for India at Rio Paralympics

Twenty-one-year-old Bronze medal winner Varun Bhati was diagnosed with polio at a very young age as one of his legs got deformed. Despite the difficulty, Bhati went on to become a champion athlete. He hails from Uttar Pradesh. Bhati finished fifth at the 2014 Asian Para Games in Incheon, (Korea) and won a gold medal at the 2014 China Open Athletics Championship, the same year.

Gursharan Singh, vice-president of the Paralympic Committee of India, told reporters:

We have very good chance in javelin throw in F-46 and F-47 categories. We expect a gold or silver or bronze. We will create new record at these games. These games will be our best-ever performance. We know how we performed in the Olympics and now you will see how we perform in Paralympics. We all know the facilities given to Olympians and how many medals they got and we will see how our Paralympians perform.

Rio Paralympics started on September 7 and will conclude on September 18.


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