India’s most decorated para-athlete Devendra Jhajharia, who last year clinched his third Paralympic medal at the 2020 Tokyo Games in the men’s javelin throw F46 category, was on Tuesday announced as one of the 17 recipients of India’s 3rd highest civilian award, the Padma Bhushan for his distinguished service of high order. The awards are announced on the occasion of Republic Day every year and are conferred by the President of India at ceremonial functions which are held at Rashtrapati Bhawan usually around March/ April every year.
Jhajharia is India’s most successful individual athlete in Olympics or Paralympics, bagging three medals — two gold medals and a silver. Jhajharia, 41, won two gold medals at 2004 Athens Paralympic Games and at Rio 2016 and went on to win silver in the men’s F46 javelin throw event at the Tokyo Paralympics last year. He could not participate at Beijing 2008 and London 2012 as his event was not listed in the Paralympic programme.
Born on June 10, 1981 Jhajharia never let setbacks impact his dreams and desires—not even when his left arm was amputated after coming into contact with a high-powered power line when he was just 8 years old. Jhajharia won gold in the F44/46 javelin throw at the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens and in the process set a new world record of 62.15m, eclipsing the old mark of 59.77m. He continued to work hard and stayed in shape for the next opportunity and the wait was finally over in 2016 when the F46 category returned to the Paralympic Games program and Jhajharia went on to win his second gold in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and further improve his world record by throwing the javelin to a distance of 63.97m. He was flag bearer for India at the opening ceremony of the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro
He had won India’s first gold medal at the world Para athletics championships by claiming victory in the F46 javelin throw at the 2013 edition of the tournament in Lyon, France. In 2005 he was given the Arjuna Award by the Indian government. The same year the government in Rajasthan presented him with the Maharana Pratap Puraskar Award. In 2012 he received the Padma Shri - the fourth highest civilian award and in 2017, the athlete from Rajasthan’s Churu district became the first Indian Para athlete to receive the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna—the highest award in sports given by the Indian government. In 2021 he was named Para Sportsman of the Decade at the Sportstar ACES Awards in India.
He self-funded his journey to the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens, where he won India’s first athletics Paralympic gold medal. “That medal was a turning point for Para sports in India. It was then that the government recognised the Paralympic Committee of India and was affiliated. I went to Athens using my own funds and after that things changed significantly. If you go back and see my video from 2004, my training involved an axe and a cycle’s tube. An axe helps in making your shoulder strong and a tube to strengthen my hand. Now no one uses such equipment. There are great quality therabands, theratubes and medicine balls. The sport of then and now [speaking in 2020] is very different. I feel like I’ve practised and competed alongside two generations of athletes," he said in an interview to Firstpost.com.
In 2018 he considered retiring from the sport due to a recurring shoulder injury that he originally sustained in 2016. However, he decided to continue after discussions with his coaches and family, and in 2021 he said he planned on competing at the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris