Dubai: Devendra Jhajharia, India’s double Paralympic gold medallist, has set his eyes on a hat-trick for a leap into history books at the 2020 Tokyo Games.
Jhajharia, who was one of the invitees at the ongoing 2019 Asian Paralympic Committee (APC) General Assembly, is the first Indian Paralympian to win two gold medals at the Paralympic Games.
He won the first gold in the javelin throw at Athens in 2004 setting a new world record of 62.15 metres to become only the second gold medallist at the Paralympics for India.
A decade later at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympics, Jhajharia won a second gold in the same event- bettering his own world record with a throw of 63.97 metres. Now well into his training regimen for a third Paralympics, Jhajharia wants to do even better.
“It was rather unfortunate that I had to wait for eight years only because my event (Javelin F46 category) was not included at Beijing 2008 and London 2012. But it was worth the wait as I could just go and better my own world record in Rio,” Jhajharia told Gulf News.
“I have another chance in Tokyo next year and I am already looking at a new world record. I have already commenced my training schedule of shedding some extra weight and building up my core muscles. I think I can easily get past the 65-metre mark at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics,” the 37-year-old said.
Born in 1981 in Rajasthan’s Churu District, Jhajharia touched a live electric cable while climbing a tree as a boy. Doctors were forced to amputate his left hand.
In 1997, Jhajharia was spotted by Dronacharya Awardee coach R.D. Singh while competing at a school Sports Day, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Currently supported by the GoSports Foundation through its Para Champions Programme, Jhajharia is not overawed with the task at hand. “Even when my event was not held at two successive Paralympics [Beijing and London], my focus was to stay motivated as I knew my opportunity to shine would come again. So now I keep telling myself that if I could break my own world record after an eight-year gap, then why can’t I do the same after four years?” he added.
“For me personally and for the entire world, the Paralympics movement has grown and there are more people aware of our contribution as athletes. In the past 17 years, I have been part of an effort that has grown to what it is today. I think I have the necessary experience to set a new world mark. I will peak in time for 2020 Tokyo,” he said.
A former employee of the Indian Railways, Jhajharia is currently with the Sports Authority of India (SAI). His wife Manju is a former Kabaddi player and the couple has two children. Jhajharia was given the Arjuna Award in 2004 and he became the first Paralympian to be honoured with the Padma Shri in 2012. Two years later, the Indian was the recipient of the FICCI Para-Sportsperson of the Year for 2014 and in 2017, he was conferred the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna.
Confiding his love for the sport, Jhajharia said: “Without sport, I would be nothing. Sport has made me realise that we are all under one common umbrella as a single family. Some of us have been bestowed with special gifts and we need to use these for the benefit of others,” the decorated Paralympian added.