Devendra Jhajharia- The Legend.

January 12, 2018

Devendra Jhajharia- The Legend.

Devendra Jhajharia is an inspiration, not just for para-athletes, but for the athletics fraternity in general. He competes in F46 events, and, at the 2004 Athens Paralympics, set a new javelin world record with a throw of 62.15m, becoming the second Indian ever to win a Paralympic gold.

In his indomitable spirit of ever scaling new heights, he went on to set a new world record at the  2016 Rio Paralympics with a record throw of 63.97 metres, netting yet another gold in the process. At the games he won 2 golds, a feat not surpassed by another Indian. Devendra started his gold winning spree at 8th FESPIC Games in Busan, South Korea in 2002, and has held the nation’s flag high in the sports arena ever since.

The Government of India recognized him with the prestigious sporting recognition, the Arjuna Award in 2004 and the country’s 4th highest civilian award, the Padmashree in 2012. He has also become the first Paralympian to be recommended for the nation’s highest sporting honour – the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award. We are in conversation with this legend.

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Which is your proudest achievement?

I believe the Rio performance, where I set a new world record, is my proudest achievement till date.

What is the most memorable moment of your life?

The most memorable moments of my life are when I sing the national anthem on the victory stand, and see our tri-colour flutter above the flags of other countries.

Winning the gold medal at Rio has been the biggest and most memorable achievement for me.

How did you feel being the flag bearer at the Paralympic games?

Being the flag bearer is a matter of pride and honour. However, it comes with great responsibility and there is immense pressure. The people and the nation have big expectations from you. I’ve been the flag bearer twice – at the 2004 Athens Games and the 2016 Rio Games. And, I believe I’ve met the people’s expectations and made my nation proud by breaking world records and winning gold medals.

When and how did you start your sports career?

I know I’m differently abled, but I never wanted myself to be tagged as weak. Hence, I had made up my mind to compete with others in sports. After notable performances at school, district and state level, I decided I want to take this ahead and become a professional athlete.

How did your family and the society support you?

My mother and my older brothers have always been my biggest support system. They’ve always encouraged me to focus on my game. Society on the other hand, questioned my ability to perform, but I chose to ignore. For, I knew that from my performances, they would get their answers.

What do you like about javelin?

I love watching the 8 feet javelin zip through the air when I throw it.

How do you feel about your daily training schedule?

When you want to be the world champion, it’s not just about training. Your goals, hard work and consistent dedication are equally important to be successful. But to answer the question, I do train extensively.

What are your career goals?

I am training for the Asian Para Games, 2018 in Indonesia; and I’ll do my very best to make the nation proud once again.

How did you manage things; since F46 was not part of two games and you had to wait for 8 years to participate in Paralympics?

Somewhere, I had a hope that my event would come up in 2012, but it didn’t. I remember having a conversation with my wife, while I was making up my mind to settle down with a job. However, my wife who was a national level kabaddi player that time, encouraged me to bide my time and continue with the sport while she took a step back.

Who has been your support system throughout your sports journey?

My mom. She has been a great support throughout my sports journey. She has always been positive and encouraging. Infact when I was young it was because of her encouragement that I was able to involve myself with children my age without feeling much different.

Who is your inspiration?

Stories and struggles of our former president Dr Abdul Kalam and runner Milkha Singh inspire me to keep going. The way they kept going, beating all the odds, made them true heroes.

What has been your biggest challenge till date and how did you overcome it?

I  faced a severe elbow injury before the 2002 FESPIC Games in Busan, just as I was starting my career. However, I tackled it with maturity and patience and gradually with the right treatment it healed..

What has been your life lesson from sports?

Sports gave me the confidence and willpower to believe in myself. Discipline is the other important thing that I learned from sports.

How do you manage to keep yourself calm and composed in difficult times?

I believe it’s the positivity within me, that helps me stay calm and composed. I focus on working for the next opportunity and giving my best to it.

What has been the role of your coach in your life? What is that one advice by your coach that you always keep in mind?

My personal coach for Rio was Sunil Tawar. We’ve played together, stayed together and have been friends for two and half years, before he switched to coaching. Throughout the training for Rio, he trained with me just like a friend and helped me better my performance. His only advice was, “You just focus on your game and give your best, the rest will fall into place”.

Do you see stereotypes in society, when it comes to the differently abled sportspersons?

Times are changing. Unlike before, people don’t crack jokes and make fun of differently abled sportspersons. Our country is developing, and there are several facilities for para athletes today. While it may not all be at the same standard as those in advanced nations, we have still improved a lot.

What would you like to say to all the young athletes?

All I wish to say is, if you really have the passion and dedication towards your dreams, nothing in the world can stop you.

What would you like to say about the awareness of para sports in India?

The conditions and awareness regarding para sports have significantly improved. I believe physical education should be made a compulsory subject part of school curricula to promote sports and para sports culture.

To know more about Devendra Jhajharia, visit his profile

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