“Rain, rain go away, come again another day” was in the minds of Mariyappan Thangavelu and Sharad Kumar while competing in the finals of the men’s high jump T63 event in Tokyo Paralympics on Tuesday.
The heavy rain played spoilsport to the gold medal plans of the two Indian competitors Mariyappan and Sharad, who won silver and bronze in the event respectively. The American Sam Grewe won gold after clearing 1.88m in his third attempt.
“The fact that it was raining only during the high jump was very dangerous for us because we have one leg to balance ourselves. The fact that we are wearing spikes in only one of them was more dangerous, but we managed to do it [win medals],” said Kumar in a press conference.
The 29-year-old athlete mentioned how he tried to speak to the officials regarding the rain situation, but the Americans who had spikes on their feet did not show support, and thus the event continued despite the rains.
Adding to Kumar’s trouble was a knee injury, the pain of which he had to overcome for a win.
Mentioning the injury, the two-time Asian para games gold medallist said, “I’m feeling great [after winning the bronze] because I had an injury last night, a meniscus burst. My meniscus was dislocated, I did not think I could participate [today]. But I put that [pain from the injury]aside and every jump was like a war. I felt that this is not in our control and that’s how I entered the arena today.”
Sharad conquered his injury and cleared 1.83m in seasons beat. Also clearing a season best attempt of 1.86m was his fellow compatriot Mariyappan.
T63, the category in which the two Indians competed are for athletes with a single through knee or above knee limb deficiency competing with a prosthesis were minimum impairment criteria for lower limb deficiency.
The Tamil Nadu athlete won gold at the 2016 Rio Paralympics in the men’s high jump F42 event, having registered 1.89 metres.
“I’m happy winning the silver, but disappointed at the same time because the rains disturbed the jumps so much,” said Thangavelu, who became only the third Indian after Joginder Singh Bedi and Devendra Jhajharia to win multiple medals at the Paralympics.
Agreeing to Sharad’s issue of the rain being a hindrance in the event, the 26-year-old athlete said, “At the starting, if you saw, the jumps were coming along really well. It was just drizzling slightly. But as the height went up to 1.80m, the rain got heavy, I could not nail the take-off. I could not get the height. On the right leg, I wear socks and it got all wet and soft. The jumps got affected. Romba kashtam aairuchu (became very difficult).”
Previously, Mariyappan, who was announced, as India’s flag-bearer in the opening ceremony, was replaced from the post after being exposed to a COVID-19 carrier.
Recalling that incident, Mariyappan said, “It was disappointing to miss out on being the flag bearer, but I wanted to make India proud and win gold. I trained and stayed separately and was quarantined.”
Assuring a gold and a new record in the next Paralympics, Mariyappan concluded, “In Rio, the climate was similar to India. But when the rains came this time around, the feeling was just not there. It was just the situation. But next Paralympics, I am confident I will win the gold and make a new record.”