Stephenie meyer once said: “When life gives you a hundred reasons to cry, show life that you have a thousand reasons to smile.” Such has been the life of 17-year-old Kashish Lakra, who is all set to represent India in the Women’s Club Throw F 51 category at the 2020 Summer Paralympics (August 24-September 05) in Tokyo. She is now India’s youngest athlete to qualify for the Paralympics in the said category.
“I have been practising Club throw for the past 2.5 years under Satyapal sir at JLN Stadium. I, along with my mother and coach will leave for Tokyo next month, and these days I am busy prepping up for the Paralympics,” adds the Mundka resident, a Class 12 student at Modern Public School, Shalimar Bagh.
Club throw is an athletic throwing event where the objective is to throw a wooden club. The event is one of the four throwing events, along with discus, javelin and shot put of the Summer Paralympics.
Lakra was not always wheelchair- bound. A sports lover since childhood, she used to play like other kids of her age. She had started skating when she was in Class 3. “I had won second position in the state level competition. Later, I went on to play shot put, speed ball, badminton, wrestling and won several medals for these games,” she adds.
When she was in Class 8, she had decided to make a career in badminton, but couldn’t due to financial issues. “So, I took up wrestling on an uncle’s recommendation, and within six months I played at the state and national level. Then, I qualified for Khelo India in wrestling. But one day in 2017, while practicing at the Sushil Kumar Academy in Najafgarh, I slipped and my spinal cord got injured,” adds Lakra.
Doctors told her parents that she won’t survive more than 48 hours, and if by chance she did, she would be bedridden for life. She had to drop out from St. Mark’s Senior Secondary Public School Meera Bagh, for the treatment, and was later denied readmission.
“I thought it was the end of my life. I was hospitalised for a week. Then, we got to know about Indian Spinal Injuries Center in Vasant Kunj, where I underwent treatment for 4.5 months. My physiotherapist, Vikram sir, helped me a lot. When he got to know that I am very passionate about sports, he introduced me to Satyapal Singh sir, who told me about Paralympics, and I started training under him for Club Throw,” says Lakra.
Gradually, she improved with timely medication and yoga. Today, she has a gold at state level, and a gold and a silver at the nationals in Club Throw, at Bengaluru. “I also won a gold at Junior World Championship in Nottwil Switzerland, and the fifth place in senior world championship, Dubai, in 2019. This year, I participated in the Fazza Championship, and now I am all set to leave for Tokyo,” she says. Doctors can’t tell if she will ever be able to walk again, and “but they have advised me to continue my physiotherapy as it will help me get better.”
These days she is busy polishing her game. JLN Stadium is 40km (two hours away) from her place. “My mother accompanies me to the practice sessions. She and brother would help me exercise. Even my maternal grandparents did everything possible for me. I could take up sports again only because of my family,” says Lakra. Even her school and teachers helped her a lot in academics. She says, “Since I used to train from 6:30am-9:30am, I missed some classes. But the principal arranged separate classes for me and never put any pressure on me.” Initially, lockdown brought its own hurdles.
“I had to stop practicing as I didn’t have much space at home and since I am a thrower, practicing in parks would have been risky. An open ground it’s required to practice. The situation has improved now.”
Selected after trials, she is among the Indian athletics team comprising 22 people that will participate in the Paralympics in Tokyo. She will compete with several senior players from across the globe. “I am the youngest among them. All my competitors have been playing for the past 20-25 years,” informs Lakra, sounding pleased at this minor achievement and with how far she has come.
Club throw was introduced for both men and women at the first 1960 Summer Paralympic Games. It was dropped from the women’s programme from the 1992 Paralympics in Barcelona, but was reinstated for London 2012. Like other throwing events, the competition is decided by who can throw the club the farthest. The club is normally made from wood with a metal base. The athlete has to sit in a frame in
a throwing area which is within a marked circle. The sport is contested by athletes in the F31, F32 and F51 classes (individuals with the most significant impairment in hand function).