The Indian juggernaut at the Paralympics showed no signs of slowing down as three more medals ensured that the country hit the double digit mark for the first time ever with Mariyappan Thangavelu’s high jump silver being the high point of a fairly terrific Tuesday here.
India’s medal count stood at 10, including two gold, five silver and three bronze medals at the end of day 7, continuing to better what is already its best ever Paralympic performance.
Shooter Singhraj Adana (10m air pistol SH1) produced a bronze-winning effort in the morning before Mariyappan, who won a gold five years ago in Rio, and Sharad Kumar finished with a silver and bronze respectively in the T42 men’s high jump competition.
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 SH1 category is for shooters who have an impairment affecting one arm and/or the legs, resulting from amputations or spinal cord injuries.
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, whose right leg was impaired after being crushed under a bus when he was just 5, 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, whose leg was paralysed after he was administered a spurious polio vaccine as a toddler, revealed he was considering pulling out of the competition due to a knee problem.
“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.
In the morning competition, 39-year-old Adana, who is afflicted with polio and was making his Games debut, shot a total of 216.8 to finish the event in the third place after qualifying for the eight-man final as the sixth best shooter.
However, Manish Narwal, who topped the qualifications with 575, was eliminated in the seventh place when it mattered the most. This is India’s second medal in shooting. Avani Lekhara won the women’s 10m air rifle standing finals (SH1) on Monday.
Hovering around the top three, Adana dropped out of contention with his poor 19th shot but managed to get back in the reckoning with his 20th attempt as China’s Xiaolong Lou got 8.6.
China, though, dominated the finals with defending champion Chao Yang (237.9 — Paralympic record) and Huang Xing (237.5) winning the gold and silver medals respectively.
The shooter from Haryana’s Bahadurgarh took to the sport only four years ago and had served as the chairman of the Sainik School in Faridabad. His grandfather was part of the country’s freedom movement and served in the British Indian Army during the second world war.
On Tuesday, he nearly missed out on the podium due to a poor 19th shot. But got his act together just in time.
Adana was coming into the Games after winning gold at the 2021 Para Sport World Cup held in Al Ain, UAE, where he upstaged 2016 Rio Paralympics bronze medallist Server Ibragimov by 2.8 points to claim the top spot.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, the polio-afflicted shooter’s desperation to resume training had reached a point where he was not able to even get a good night’s sleep and ended up building a range at home.
“As I was not able to train, I started thinking that my dream of winning a medal is over. That’s when my coaches suggested why not try building a range at home,” Adana said in a media interaction organised by broadcaster Eurosport and the Paralympic Committee of India.
“I was getting desperate and was not able to sleep at all because of the absence of training. So I approached my family with the idea and they were taken aback at first as it involved lakhs of rupees,” he recalled.
Among the major disappointments, shooter Rubina Francis finished seventh in the women’s 10m air pistol SH1 final. The 22-year-old from Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh had set the world record in the finals of the World Cup in Lima, Peru in June which had made her a strong medal contender here.
The Indian women’s table tennis team, including women’s singles silver-winner Bhavinaben Patel, was outclassed 0-2 by China in the Class 4-5 quarterfinal.
Bhavina lost 0-3 (4-11 7-11 6-11) to Ying Zhou for the third time in the competition. The Chinese had also beaten her in the singles final.
The Indian challenge in the compound men’s open archery also ended after Rakesh Kumar lost to former world champion Xinliang Ai of China in a tight quarterfinal battle.
The third-seeded Rakesh, who had shot the best Indian qualifying score of 699 out of a possible 720 in the ranking round, found the going tough against the 2016 Olympics mixed open champion to lose by two points (143-145) at the Yumenoshima Park here.