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People don't look at athletes and para-athletes in the same way: Devendra Jhajharia

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.

Published: 15th September 2016 04:32 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th September 2016 12:49 PM   |  A+A-

Devendra-AP

Gold medalist in the F46 javelin throw event Devendra Jhajharia | AP

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.” 

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