Rio de Janeiro, Sep 14 (IANS) India’s Devendra Jhajharia cemented his legend status as he bettered his own world record to win the gold medal in the men’s javelin throw F46 event at the ongoing 2016 Rio Paralympics.
Jhajharia also won the gold medal in the javelin event at the 2004 Athens Paralympics with a record throw of 62.15 metres, becoming only the second gold medallist at the Paralympics for his country, and on Tuesday improved upon the mark with a throw of 63.97 metres at the Olympic Stadium (Engenhao) here.
Jhajharia set the new benchmark in his third attempt. The 36-year-old is currently ranked third in the world in this category and is likely to become World No.1 after his latest world record setting gold medal feat.
World No.1 China’s Chunliang Guo claimed silver with a throw of 59.93 metres followed by Sri Lanka’s Dinesh Herath Priyantha, with a personal best mark of 58.23. All attempted the throw six times.
Jhajharia started with an effort of 57.25 metres and improved it in the second attempt with a throw of 60.70m before hurling the javelin that went to the historic mark of 63.97m — the throw that eventually sealed his gold medal.
He competed in the event alongside fellow Indians Rinku Hooda and Sundar Singh Gurjar.
Rinku finished fifth with a personal best of 54.39m, in six attempts while Sundar Singh Gurjar didn’t start the event.
Jhajharia, who is from Churu district in Rajasthan, took India’s tally at this edition of the Paralympics to four medals — two golds, one silver and a bronze.
The Rajasthan born, with an amputated left hand, was chosen as a recipient of the 2004 Arjuna Award and the Padma Shri in 2012, becoming the first Paralympian to be receiving the honour.
Jhajharia was electrocuted while climbing a tree at the tender age of eight and his left hand had to be amputated. But that didn’t deter him from pursuing his dreams.
Jhajharia feels it is his “willpower” which kept him going despite all the hardships.
“If you have the willpower then nothing is impossible in this world. I won my first Paralympics medal in 2004 and now after 12 years, it is just the dedication and hard work which paid off,” Devendra, who is a coach with the Gandhinagar centre of the Sports Authority of India (SAI) told IANS on the phone from Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday after his victory.
“The feeling can’t be expressed in words..it’s like a dream come true. Even if I broke the world record in 2004, but this is something very very special. I felt like successfully completing a mission.”
The track and field star won gold at the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) Athletics World Championships in Lyon in 2013. He last participated in the Paralympics 12 years back. The F46 event did not feature in the 2008 and the 2012 editions.
Jhajharia admitted that maintaining the focus and bettering his own world record wasn’t an easy task.
“Maintaining the same focus at 23 and now at the age of 35 has been quite tough. But getting another gold after a 12-year long wait only sweetens the feeling more. I trained for four hours daily (two hours in the morning and another two in the evening) at the SAI centre,” he said.
“But when I moved to Finland for training, we worked for about seven hours everyday. This also forced the authorities there to admit how hardworking Indians can be. So I can proudly say that this gold is the outcome of all that hard work and dedication.”
The 2014 Asian Para Games silver medallist feels the perception of para athletes is gradually changing for the better.
“Perception towards para athletes has gradually changed over the time. The credit goes to the brilliant performances of the athletes, not only at the Paralympics but also other tournaments like World championships.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Ankur Dhama failed to qualify in the men’s 1,500m — T11 Round 1 event, securing the 11th spot among 17 athletes, five among them getting disqualified.
He took a time of 4:37.61 to finish his race but it wasn’t enough as the first six qualified for the next round.
Swimmer Suyash Jadhav couldn’t qualify for the final round of the men’s 200-metre Individual Medley competition.
Jadhav trailed from the start and finished his heat sixth among as many swimmers with a time of 3 minutes 1.05 seconds.
The 22-year-old Maharashtrian was 10th in the overall standings among 12 swimmers.
India has bagged an overall total of 12 medals, including four golds, four silvers and an equal number of bronze medals since 1968 .