Jumping to Glory: High jumpers make history in Rio
In what turned out to be a historic day for India, Mariyappan Thangavelu (1.89m) and Varun Bhati (1.86m) opened India’s tally at the Paralympic Games in Rio with gold and bronze medals in the T-42 category of high jump on Saturday.
Mariyappan, Varun and Sharad Kumar, who are the top 3 in the high jump world rankings headed to Rio with a prospect of securing all three medals under India’s belt. However, Sharad, who was leading the pack till the 1.60m clearance, settled for 1.77m while Mariyappan, with all eyes in the stadium focused at him, leaped over 1.89 metres beating Varun and American Sam Grewe who were tied at 1.86m, to finish as the best jumper at the outing.
Mariyappan was first noticed in the Indian national para-athletics championships in 2015 after which, he shifted to Bengaluru for training under his current coach Satyanarayana, a former long-distance runner for Karnataka. Mariyappan is yet to attain a stable job even though he holds a Bachelors in Business Administration (BBA). The Tamil Nadu government has already announced a Rs. 2 crore reward which will help ease the medical loans he had to bear after a bus accident left him permanently disabled at the age of five.
Varun meanwhile is currently doing his Mahematics Honours in the Delhi University. He hails from Jamalpur in Uttar Pradesh and was a basketball player in school days, Varun’s ability to jump helped him shape and grow as a successful high-jumper. Born with Poliomyelitis, a deformity in the left leg, the 21 year old undertakes plyometric training (muscle stretching techniques) and weights training like every other high jumper to perform at the highest level.
His first international meet in China in 2014 came as a turning point in his career as he went on to win the gold. He continued his run in the 2015 Para World Championship, Doha where he surpassed his Olympic colleague Sharad Kumar and India’s 2012 medal winner, HN Girisha. “After coming 5th in the Asian Games and World Championship in 2014, I have come a long way. I have worked and improved a lot. I enjoy my training and this year I set a new Asian record (1.82m) which my co-athlete broke. It had been an interesting journey and I was nervously excited for my event here”, said Varun, on his journey to Rio.
In a message to youngsters pursuing sports, he says, “Make sure you have a goal. A life without a goal is worthless. Be focused. Have faith and don’t stop until you get it. Life is too big to get disheartened at small failures”. The world number 2 surely does seem to have followed his own words, despite finishing as the bronze medalist after reaching Rio with an aim to record a personal best and seal the gold.
The Manipal Journal congratulates the medalists and wishes them good luck for their future endeavors.