Tokyo: Defending champion Mariyappan Thangavelu and Sharad Kumar won a silver and bronze respectively in the men’s high jump T42 event as India’s medal tally at the Paralympics touched an unprecedented 10, riding on a consistently stupendous track-and-field performance here on Tuesday.
Mariyappan cleared 1.86m while American gold winner Sam Grewe succeeded in soaring above 1.88m in his third attempt. Kumar took the bronze with an effort of 1.83.
“I could have won gold and claimed the world record. I came here with that aim. But the rain played spoilsport. It was a drizzle initially but after the 1.80m mark, it became heavy. The sock on my other leg (the impaired right leg) got wet and it was difficult to jump,” Mariyappan said after the event.
“In Rio, the weather was great and I won gold. I will try for gold and world record in Paris 2024,” he added.
The third Indian in fray and 2016 Rio Paralympics bronze-winner, Varun Singh Bhati ended seventh out of nine competitors after he failed to clear the 1.77m mark.
Kumar revealed he was considering pulling out of the competition due to a leg injury.
“I had an injury on my leg, meniscus dislocated (a type of knee injury) yesterday. I thought of pulling out today but spoke to my family back home. They said just go ahead. Told me to read Bhagawat Gita and focus on what I can do and not on what I have no control over,” he said.
The T42 classification is for athletes with a leg deficiency, leg length difference, impaired muscle power or impaired passive range of movement in the legs. The athletes compete in a standing position.
The Indians stayed inside the top three for a majority of the competition and Mariyappan was in contention for a gold as well.
India have so far won two gold, five silver and three bronze medals in the ongoing Games.
Athletics has once again been the country’s happy hunting ground with one gold, four silver and two bronze so far and some more expected before the Games wind up on Sunday.
Earlier in the day, shooter Singhraj Adana fetched a bronze in the men’s 10m air pistol SH1 event.
The 26-year-old Mariyappan was touted as a sure shot medal for India after rising to fame with his gold in the Rio Games five years ago.
The Tamil Nadu athlete suffered permanent disability in his right leg after it was crushed under a bus when he was only 5. The doctors had recommended amputation of his leg but his mother Saroja decided against it.
His father abandoned the family long back, and Mariyappan battled abject poverty growing up as his resolute mother worked as a labourer before becoming a vegetable seller.
Mariyappan was training at the Sports Authority of India centre in Bangalore under coach Satyanarayana prior to the Paralympics.
Kumar, who hails from Patna, Bihar, suffered a paralysis in his left leg as a two-year-old after being administered a spurious polio vaccine.
He was training in Ukraine for over two years prior to the Games under foreign coach Nikitin Yevhen at full cost to the central government.
The government also assisted him in getting back to India from Ukraine during the COVID-19 restrictions.
He is a two-time Asian Para Games gold-medallist.
The gold medal in track and field has come from javelin thrower Sumit Antil, who smashed his own world record five times during a stunning Games debut performance in the F 64 category (for athletes with a leg amputation, who compete with prosthetics in a standing position) on Monday.