When India's para-athlete Mariyappan Thangavelu neared the crossbar of the High jump medal contest in the ongoing Paralympics, his grit to win a medal was clearly visible amid the downpour. Though the Rio 2016 champion settled for the Silver medal, he remains to be a champion in his efforts to make the country proud by winning a medal. He assured the Silver medal in his final jump in the Men's High Jump T63 category finals that were held on Tuesday.
Mariayappan's achievement has to be celebrated as he has etched a history to win two consecutive medals in Paralympic Games. He had won the Gold medal in the category of T-42 High jump in the 2016 Rio Paralympics. He also had become the second Indian para-athlete to win a medal in two consecutive Paralympics after javelin thrower Devendra Jhajharia, who won Gold in Rio and Silver in the ongoing games in Tokyo. Through winning the Gold in Rio, Mariyappan also holds a record of being India's first Paralympian gold medalist since 2004.
26-year-old Mariyappan is a native of Tamil Nadu. Born in Periavadagampatti in the Salem district of Tamil Nadu, Mariyappan had suffered a permanent disability in his right leg when he was run over by a drunk bus driver while going to school. The bus crushed his leg below the knee and as his father had abandoned his family during his childhood, Mariyappan's mother had raised him along with his three siblings. Despite the odds, he had completed secondary schooling and he had worked as a newspaper hawker to support his family.
During his school days, he developed an interest in sports and enjoyed playing volleyball and his school physical education coach has encouraged him to venture high jumping. In 2013, Mariyappan's current coach Satyanarayana first noticed his performance at the Indian national para-athletics championships, and formally took him on as a student in 2015 and brought him to Bangalore for further coaching. With the intense training, Mariyappan had a major breakthrough in March 2016 when he finished big in the men's high jump competition that was held in Tunisia.
Through this turning point, he got a ticket for the 2016 Rio Paralympics and proved he is worth picking. He won the Gold medal in the men's high jump T-42 event, with a record high jump of 1.89m. With the Gold, he had become the third Gold medal winner for India in the Paralympic Games. As a gold medal winner, there was a natural expectation of a medal from Mariyappan in the 2020 Tokyo Games and shouldered with the expectation, he arrived at the Japanese capital and for yet another time, he proved his grit and fulfilled the expectation by sharing the medal podium.
Though not Gold, Mariyappan's Silver medal will give a crucial boost to the athletes back in his home state and country and what is more significant is that the medal podium was also shared by Mariyappan's compatriot Sharad Kumar, who won the Bronze medal in the same competition on Tuesday. Mariyappan has assured the Silver medal after leaping the mark of 1.86m while Sharad Kumar had grabbed bronze after scaling his season-best mark of 1.83m. On the top of the podium is the US High Jumper Sam Grewe, who won the Gold with the mark of 1.88m. Another Indian and Rio 2016 bronze medalist Varun Singh Bhati had finished seventh with a season-best of 1.77m.
The video of his final jump in which he settled for Silver has been going viral on social media and he has been flooded with commendations for his glorious milestone of winning two medals in two consecutive Paralympic Games. Prime Minister Modi has called Mariyappan synonymous with consistency and excellence. Taking to the social media, the Prime Minister wrote, "Soaring higher and higher! Mariyappan Thangavelu is synonymous with consistence and excellence. Congratulations to him for winning the Silver Medal. India is proud of his feat". With the back to back medals in the High jump on Tuesday, India currently stands at the 30th spot in the medal tally by winning ten medals - two golds, five silvers, and three bronzes. The Indian Paralympic contingent has made the ongoing games the best season for India by winning more medals than ever in India's history of Paralympic Games.
The Rio 2016 champion settles for #Silver at #Tokyo2020, but fought until the end to retain his title! 🌟— #Tokyo2020 for India (@Tokyo2020hi) August 31, 2021
Watch his Men's High Jump T63 Final attempt 👀👇#Paralympics #ParaAthletics #INDpic.twitter.com/7Lh1fyhlXg