Sports Other News 01 Sep 2021 Couldn’t have ...

Couldn’t have asked for a better debut: Sumit Antil

Published Sep 1, 2021, 5:39 pm IST
Updated Sep 1, 2021, 5:39 pm IST
Para Javelin athlete Sumit Antil reflects on his gold medal win at his maiden Paralympics debut in Tokyo
Para Javelin athlete Sumit Antil
 Para Javelin athlete Sumit Antil

In a historic performance, Javelin thrower Sumit Antil clinched the second gold medal (in Men F-64 category) for India in the ongoing Paralympics at Tokyo on Monday, the first in the field of athletics for the event. The F-64 category in Paralympics is for athletes with a leg amputation, competing in a standing posture using prosthetic legs.

Sumit is overwhelmed with joy. “Winning a medal in Paralympics was my ultimate dream, but I never expected that I would win it in my maiden participation; I couldn’t ask for a better debut and can’t explain my joy in words,” he states.


The gold medallist admits that he was nervous the night before the big day especially because it was his maiden Paralympics. “I did not sleep properly. I knew that the next day would be the last throw of dice, so I was thinking about how best I can perform on the big day. But I was equally excited too as I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time,” he shares.

He did not follow any specific strategy, instead he only wanted to enjoy the experience of playing at the highest level. “I hoped to give my best shot and treasure the experience of playing at the Paralympics. And it indeed turned out to be the most memorable one in my life. Competing with the best players will be a tough battle, so I just wanted to remain focused and not deviate,” he said.


That moment of incredible disbelief

While participating in the Paralympics was itself a great thing for the 23-year-old para javelin thrower, who’d earlier won a silver medal (F-64 category) in the 2019 World Championships in Dubai, winning a gold medal in the event, he says, still seems incredible.

When he won the gold medal, he was initially in disbelief. “My mind was blank, and it took me a few minutes to realise that I’d actually won gold,” he says, adding that going to the podium and collecting the medal was a completely different experience. “I dedicate the medal to my parents, coaches and the country,” says the modest champion matter-of-factly.


A life-changing accident

Hailing from Sonipat in Haryana, Sumit apparently lost his left leg below the knee in a motorbike accident in 2015, when his bike slipped on the road. A tractor coming behind him failed to apply brakes on time and ran over his leg resulting in his leg getting amputated. Until that life-changing accident, however, Sumit had been an able-bodied wrestler, prepping up for a career in the field. “Life became difficult! The accident smashed my dreams of becoming a wrestler,” he recollects.

However, what remains is that Sumit did not let the mishap dampen his spirits. The accident seemed to have left him more determined to do something in sports. Even so, he was unsure what sport to take up.


“I used to go to the stadium just to meet people, and that’s when I saw para-athletes and I was inspired by their training and efforts,” he explains. Later, one of his friends had introduced him to the javelin. “And coach Naval Singh helped me with those tough times,” he says, sharing his regards for the coach.

Twice the effort

However, being a para athlete meant that he had to prepare a lot — not just physically, but he needed to stay strong mentally too. “I was a bit low emotionally because of what had happened. Sometimes, the energy levels dropped as the body used to take a toll,” he remembers.


Even so, he did not let anything affect him. “My parents too were supportive and made me pursue whatever I was interested in,” adds the spirited youngster.
Of course, preparing for the Paralympics was a completely different ball game. Since he had to compete with the world’s best he had to work a lot for the medal.

“Sometimes I practised for around eight hours,” he reveals, though staying focused remained a challenge though he drew his inspirations from the Olympic javelin gold medallist Neeraj Chopra, whom he played alongside and interacted with at the able-bodied Indian Grand Prix 3 at the National Institute of Sports (NIS) in Patiala in March this year.


Location: India, Telangana, Hyderabad