Tokyo: India has sent its largest-ever Paralympic contingent to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, consisting of 54 athletes stretching across nine sports.
The 2020 Tokyo Olympics came to an end with an excitable and impassioned fervour at the beginning of the month, and now, Japan is all set to host an exciting Summer Paralympics, unlike any other, with more sports and more athletes, among other things.
At the last Paralympic Games in Rio in 2016, the Indian contingent gave their best performance to date, winning the country four medals— 2 gold, a silver, and a bronze. And now, the athletic contingent has geared up, sending its largest contingent yet, with 54 Paralympians eyeing for glory by the end of the mega event.
Here are 10 athletes to watch out for:
1. Devendra Jhajharia
India's Devendra Jhajharia reacts after his last throw in the men's javelin throw F46 final of the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on September 13, 2016. Jhajharia won gold and set a new world record. (Photo: AP)
Devendra Jhajharia is an Indian Paralympic javelin thrower. Jhajharia was the first Indian athlete (Olympic or Paralympic) to win two gold medals at this level. He won his first gold at the 2004 Athens Paralympics and his second at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Jhajharia broke his own record from the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens with his performance in the 2016 Rio Games, bettering his own record from 62.15m to 63.97m.
2. Avani Lekhara
Avani Lekhara won silver at the Al Ain 2021 World Shooting Para Sport World Cup. (Twitter/SAIMedia)
Avani Lekhara is an Indian para rifle shooter, and is the first Indian woman para shooter to qualify for the Paralympics. She is currently world number five in the Women's 10m Air Rifle event, and was also a part of the 2018 Asian Para Games.
3. Mariyappan Thangavelu
Indian paralympic High Jumper Mariyappan Thangavelu.
Mariyappan Thangavelu, India’s star athlete in High Jump, is another Indian gold medallist from the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. He also won bronze later at the 2019 World Para-Athletics Championships. Thangavelu is a Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna awardee and is the flagbearer for the Indian Contingent at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.
4. Prachi Yadav
Indian paracanoe athlete Prachi Yadav. (Photo: International Canoe Federation)
Prachi Yadav is an Indian para canoeist from Gwalior. She is the first Indian canoeist to qualify for kayaking and canoeing for Tokyo Paralympics 2020 and is India’s only entry in the event.
5. Jyoti Baliyan
Indian Para archer Jyoti Baliyan. (Photo: Twitter/GoSports)
Jyoti Baliyan is an Indian para archer, and is the only female archer from India to qualify for Tokyo Paralympics 2020. She secured the 17th rank in the World Championship held in the Netherlands and participated in the seventh Fazza Para Archery Tournament held in Dubai this year. Baliyan won the gold in the 2017 World Para-Archery Championship in Beijing and a silver at the 2019 Asian Para Championship.
6. Pramod Bhagat
Indian Para-shuttler Pramod Bhagat. (Photo: PTI)
The Indian contingent is set to debut its performance for the first time in Badminton this year. Star shuttler Pramod Bhagat is a professional Badminton player from Odisha and is ranked world number one in para-badminton men's singles. He won two gold medals at the BWF Para-Badminton World Championship 2019 and two gold and a silver medal at the IWAS World Games 2019 and is hoping for his first at the highest level of his sport.
7. Suhas Lalinakere Yathiraj
Indian Para-shuttler Suhas Lalinakere Yathiraj. (Twitter/Narendra Modi)
Suhas Lalinakere Yathiraj is an Indian professional Paralympic badminton player from Karnataka. He is ranked world number three in para-badminton men's singles. An IAS officer by profession, he became the first Indian bureaucrat to win a professional International Badminton Championship when he won the gold at the 2016 Asian Para-Badminton Championships.
8. Aruna Tanwar
Aruna Tanwar has become India's first-ever Taekwondo entry in the Paralympics (Photo: Twitter/Aruna Tanwar)
The Indian contingent will also be debuting for the first time in Taekwondo this year, and Aruna Tanwar leading the way. She is currently ranked fourth in the world in the W-49 kg | K43 | and her World Rank is 30th in the W-49 kg | K44 event category. She is the first-ever Indian Taekwondo athlete to qualify for the Paralympics on the allocation of a bipartite invitation.
9. Harvinder Singh
Indian Para-archer Harvinder Singh. (Photo: Twitter/Harvinder Singh)
Harvinder Singh is one of two men archers to qualify for the Paralympics for the first time in the country’s history. Harvinder won the gold medal at the 2018 Asian Para Games just a year after he entered the scene, and won bronze at the 2019 Asian Para Archery Championships in Bangkok as well. It will be a moment of pride if the Paralympians can shine where the Indian Olympic archers failed to perform.
10. Rubina Francis
Indian para-shooter Rubina Francis (Photo: Twitter/JSW Sports)
Rubina Francis is an Indian para shooter, and to qualify for para pistol shooting at the Tokyo Paralympics 2020. Ranked world number five. she won the gold at the Lima World Cup 2021. She has a bronze medal from the 2019 WSPS World Cup in Croatia and gold in the Junior World Record at 2019 WSPS World in Thailand.