CHENNAI: Losing a bronze hurts, literally. More so if you had wagered all for a better tomorrow. Para- athlete Vinod Kumar was living his dream for the past two years. Winning a Paralympic medal was the only thing he had thought about after qualifying for the marquee event during this period.
With the Tokyo Paralympics now over and Vinod stripped off the bronze he had won in discus throw F52 after being found ineligible, the 41-year-old from Haryana has more pressing issues to concentrate on.
While he was preparing for the Paralympics, his grocery shop, which was being run from a rented place, had shut down rendering Vinod jobless.
In his bid to qualify for the event and continue training for it, he had incurred a debt of almost Rs 8 lakh. With no source of income, Vinod felt is struggling to pay back the debt as well as support his family of four -- wife Anita and daughters, Sakshi (7 years) and Yakshi (2 years).
"I was banking on my performance at the Paralympics to overcome these issues. Despite finishing on the podium, I was found ineligible and denied the bronze. I don't know what to do now. I have a family to support with no source of income," Vinod told this daily from his rented house in Rohtak.
Vinod qualified for the Tokyo event by finishing fourth in the 2019 World Para Athletics Championships. Before the event, he went to Paris to undergo classification. He had loaned around Rs 3 lakh from his sister for the purpose.
"Since October last year, I trained at SAI centre in Bengaluru. I met my family only once during this period. But now I am home after 11 months. With the grocery shop shut now, I have to look for alternatives."
He was included in the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) after securing the Tokyo quota. The financial support through TOPS kept him afloat during this period but now even that might not be there as the authorities concerned will review athlete's performance before finalising the names for the new cycle.
Vinod was evaluated on August 22 in Tokyo and cleared to compete in the F52 category. However, as per the World Para Athletics database, his classification status for the current year was already under review. Even before the classification issue, Vinod along with Mariyappan Thangavelu and four support staff was asked to quarantine after they came in close contact with a person who later tested Covid positive.
Despite the setback, Vinod produced a best throw of 19.91m to finish third behind Piotr Kosewicz (20.02m) of Poland and Velimir Sandor (19.98m) of Croatia. The result, however, was put on hold and Vinod was held ineligible a day later.
"It's not the end. I will certainly prepare for the 2024 Paris Paralympics but for it, I need support from the government. I will meet Haryana sports minister Sandeep Singh soon and request him to support me for the next Paralympics. I hope something positive will come out from the meeting," Vinod signed off.