Once Taunted as 'Weak', Devendra Jhajharia is Now Two-Time Paralympics Gold Medalist
Javelin thrower Devendra Jhajharia became the first Indian to clinch two gold medals at the Paralympics after he broke his own world record to clinch the top honours at the Rio Games.
Devendra Jhajharia is nothing less than an inspiration for athletes. Despite losing his left hand at the age of eight when he accidentally touched a live electric cable of 11000 volts while climbing a tree, Jhajharia has left his disability behind and has gone on to become India's top para-athlete.
Glory again knocked the door of javelin thrower Devendra on Tuesday, when he became the first Indian to clinch two gold medals at the Paralympics after he broke his own world record to secure the top honours at Rio Games.
Devendra, who won his previous gold in the 2004 Athens Games, bettered his own world record in Paralympics to finish on top in the men's F46 event.
"It is a proud moment for me. I am really happy that I have made my country proud. After winning the medal, I kissed the tri-colour. I promised everyone back home that I will repeat in Rio what I did in Athens. And, I did it," javelin thrower Devendra Jhajharia told News18.com in an exclusive interview from Rio.
"All I am reading and replying to the wishes that have been pouring on continuously. I am sleepless," Devendra said.
Devendra, whose previous best was 62.15 metres (achieved in the 2004 Games), improved the mark with an attempt of 63.97 metres at the Olympic Stadium on Tuesday.
"The best part was, I created a record in Athens and won the gold and repeated the same in Rio as well. It seems I am living that moment. I have created history for my country and I am so happy," Jhajharia said.
Jahjharia won gold in the javelin throw at the 2004 Paralympics in Athens and became only the second gold-medalist for the country at the Paralympics. This spectacular feat helped Jhajharia, a resident of Churu District in Rajasthan, get honoured with the 2004 Arjuna Award. He also received India’s prestigious Padma Shri Award in 2012, becoming the first Paralympian to be honoured with the award.
"Honestly, time flies. It was a 23-year-old Devendra Jhajharia in Athens who won the Gold in Athens with a world record. Now, after 10 years, the same man, who is 33 now, created the history again with a world record. It all happened due to my hard work (this I added) (I worked really hard for this and it paid off---you can remove this line). Thanks India," Devendra said.
Devendra, who is 33 now, refuses to comment on retirement and wants to speak to his coach before focusing on Tokyo Olympics.
"I have not decided it (retirement) yet. A coach is the best person who knows about a player. I will consult my coach first and will plan accordingly. For now, I just want to celebrate my Gold medal," the Rio Paralympics gold medallist said.
The unfortunate incident of 1997 which saw Jhajharia lose his left hand, couldn't stop his determination as he made a promise to himself to silence his critics.
With a lump in his throat, he went on to describe his life-changing horrific incident. "I was playing with my friends. While playing, I climbed on a tree. I didn’t realise there is an electric wire passing through the branches of the tree and unfortunately, my hand got in contact with that wire which had 11,000 volt current. I was unconscious. When my friends informed my parents, they came and took me home. They thought I was dead while they were taking me back home. Then they took me to a hospital. Fortunately, god saved me but I had to lose my left hand as it was badly injured after the accident," Jhajharia said.
"It was a tough period for me but it was much tougher for my parents. They had to take care of me and also listen to taunts from people. People used to say: 'Abb ye ladka kya karega?’(What will this boy do now?)," he added.
"My mother used to get very sad but she never replied to those people. She took a good care of me. I used to play with my friends but the feeling of doing something in life was there in me. People use to call me ‘weak’ and I wanted to shut their mouths," Jhajharia said as the tears rolled down his eyes.
"One day, I was sitting in the school playground when I saw a boy throwing a javelin. I asked myself – Devendra, can you do this? I rushed to that boy and requested him if I can also try to throw it once. He agreed. And, I threw the javelin for a longer distance than that boy was throwing. He was surprised and said I should give this sport a try,” he said.
Now the problem was to arrange a javelin for practice. After a lot of brainstorming, Jhajharia came across an old man who had harpoon for fishing purpose and he somehow arranged that for him and he managed to practice with it.
"I thought a lot about how to start the game for which javelin was needed. I didn’t want to tell my parents about this. They would have stopped me and people would make fun of me. So I decided to convince that man. He agreed to give me his harpoon and I fixed that on a big stick and made it my javelin. It was heavy and seemed to be of better quality than the normal javelins. This is how is started practicing my favourite sport," described Jhajharia.
"Honestly, I didn't want to be called as ‘weak’ and this stubbornness in me took me to the Olympics," he said.