India eye record medal haul at Tokyo Paralympics

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New Delhi, Jan 24 (IANS) Gursharan Singh, interim president of the Paralympic Committee of India, believes an unprecedented haul of 15 medals, five of them gold, is well within India’s reach when they send their biggest ever contingent to a Paralympic Games at Tokyo 2020.

The 65-year-old’s enthusiasm stems from the sterling display of the Indian Para athletes in the build-up to Tokyo that has already landed them 22 spots.

Singh, a former middle-distance runner, is confident the tally could swell to 35 by June, when the qualification period for most Paralympic sports closes.

Archery, athletics, badminton and shooting are the sports where India could gain 13 more slots in Tokyo, according to Singh.

He also marked out India’s gold medal hopes – Sandeep Chaudhary (javelin F44), Sundar Singh Gurjar (javelin F46), archer Harvinder Singh (men’s recurve open) and badminton player Pramod Bhagat (SL 3).

“We could also get a gold in either high jump or club throw event,” he added.

These numbers are paltry compared to China’s haul (239 medals, including 107 gold) at the Rio 2016 Paralympics. But for a country where Para sports and Para athletes have struggled to get national attention in the past, it is a big leap.

The turning point came in Rio, where the 19-member Indian Paralympic contingent fetched two golds, one silver and a bronze, to upstage the one silver and one bronze bagged by the 117-member Indian contingent at the Olympics.

Before 2016, India’s best display at the Paralympics was in 1984 where they claimed four medals, two silver and two bronze.

Singh said the biggest change for Indian para-sports since Rio has been the rise in awareness levels about the para athletes in the country. The Paralympic Committee of India have had its hands full as it witnessed a significant rise in the number of Para athletes turning up for national and state-level events.

India’s hopefuls at the Tokyo Paralympics:

Archery: Harvinder Singh and Vivek Chikara (Men’s individual recurve open), Rakesh Kumar and Shyam Sundar Swami (Men’s individual compound open).

Shooting: Manish Narwal and Deepender Singh (P1 Men’s 10m Air Pistol SH1), Singhraj Adhana (Mixed 50m Pistol SH1), Avani Lekhara and Siddarth Babu (R6 Mixed 50m Rifle Prone SH1), Swaroop Mahavir Unhalkar (R1 Men’s 10m Air Rifle Standing SH1).

Athletics: Sandeep Chaudhary (Javelin F44), Sumit Antil (Javelin F64), Sundar Singh Gurjar (Javelin F46), Vinod Kumar (Discus F52), Ajeet Singh (Javelin F46), Rinku Hooda (Javelin F48), Yogesh Kathuniya (Discus F56), Ekta Bhyan (Women’s club throw F51), Praveen Kumar (High jump T44), Nishad Kumar (High jump T47), Sharad Kumar (High jump T63), and Mariyappan Thangavelu (High jump T42).

–IANS

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