Even before celebrations of the stellar performance at the Olympics could faze, India has started preparing for the upcoming Tokyo Paralympics. Recently, Sports Minister Anurag Thakur and the national governing body presented a warm send-off to the 54-member Indian team for the Paralympics. To be held between August 24 and September 5, this year's Paralympics Games will witness India competing in nine sports.
As the country sends off its largest-ever contingent to the Games and hopes for its best-ever performance, let us take a look at five Paralympians who are being widely considered as India's best bets at the Tokyo Paralympics.
While India is still lauding javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra for winning gold at the Olympics and creating history, it is time to remember another javelin thrower who created history in the Paralympics. The only Indian Paralympic athlete to win two gold medals, Devendra Jhajharia qualified for the Tokyo Paralympics Games with a record-breaking throw of 65.71m.
The athlete won his first gold in 2004 at the Athens Paralympics and the second one in 2016 at the Rio Paralympics. The first para-athlete to receive the Padma Shri, Jhajharia is confident about bringing home another gold medal from Tokyo.
One of India's top para-archers, Jyoti Balyan, began her sporting career as her father wanted her to represent the country on international platforms. She started her career in 2010 when her coach opened a local archery academy and was searching for para-archers. The same year, she won the gold medal at the National Championships in Odisha.
But perhaps the proudest moment in her sporting career was when she grabbed gold at the World Championships in Tamil Nadu, even defeating the non-disabled archers. For Balyan, consistency in performance has indeed been the key. This has won her multiple laurels, including two silver medals at the 7th FAZZA Para Archery World Ranking Tournament held this year in Dubai.
World no.1 and record holder in Men's Javelin F44, Sandeep Chaudhary is undoubtedly one of India's best bets in the Tokyo Paralympics.
Ever since childhood, Chaudhary has always been the jack-of-all-trades when it came to sports. Not only did he hold a world record in javelin throw, but he also played badminton and volleyball at the national level. His achievements include winning gold at the Asian Para Games in 2018 and the World Para Athletics Championships in 2019.
What makes this Paralympian different from most other athletes is his impressionable feat in a sporting career of just three years! Once a senior executive at a private firm, Chikara turned to Para-archery at 27 years of age in 2018.
His journey as a sportsperson started after reading about Gurukul Archery Academy in the newspaper. In this short period, Chikara has managed to achieve more than his contemporary athletes. He won gold at the 2019 Asian Para Archery Championships in Bangkok. With a joint 9th finish in recurve at the Netherlands World Para Championships, Chikara secured his berth at the Tokyo Paralympics.
Amit Kumar Saroha
Hailing from Haryana, Paralympian Amit Kumar Saroha is going to represent India in Club Throw. This marks his third time in the Paralympic Games. At the 2014 Asian Para Games in Korea, he had won a gold medal in Club Throw and a silver medal in Discuss Throw.
Saroha had been in love with sports from a young age and used to be a national-level hockey player. He is the first Indian athlete with 100% disability to participate in para-sports. Following this, he has won several national and international events and was conferred the Arjuna Award for his outstanding sporting achievements.