People don't look at athletes and para-athletes in the same way: Devendra Jhajharia
CHENNAI: When Devendra Jhajharia won Paralympic gold, his world changed forever. But not in Rio on Tuesday, when he won his second gold in F46 javelin throw with a new world record. That happened 12 years ago when he won gold in Athens. He is the first Indian to win two medals at Paralympics.
Words laden with emotion, he recollects those moments. “Since that gold, life has never been the same,” he told Express from Rio. From personal recognition to monetary assistance, Jhajharia received it all. “Not the same kind as Olympic medallists but there was recognition definitely,” he said. Monetary benefits flowed in and from a modest background, he and his family were elevated to be well-off. “We migrated to Jaipur from a small village in Churu district of Rajasthan,” he said.
Jhajharia never expected the same kind of recognition as Olympians. “I know my place so I don’t complain about disparity,” he said. There have been instances when he was even compared to India’s sole Olympic gold medallist. “But then, we’re different. People don’t look at athletes and para-athletes in the same way and our achievements are not celebrated in the same way. I’m not complaining. I believe it’s the perception of the people that needs to change. Though people recognise you, on the popularity chart, we are not in the same league. But we are winners too.” Jhajharia threw the javelin to a distance of 63.97m on his third attempt to clinch the gold. He broke the world record of 62.15m, a mark he set during his gold-winning feat in Athens. He dedicated the victory to his daughter Jiya.
Jhajharia lost his left arm in a freak accident when he was eight. “It was the summer of 1989. My friends and I loved climbing trees. When it was my turn, I did not notice a live wire of 11000kV running through one of the branches. My left arm touched the wire and I collapsed. I was lucky to have survived but left hand had to be amputated below the elbow.”