By Venkatachari Jagannathan
Twenty-two-year-old golden boy Mariyappan Thangavelu is a shy and reserved guy, but when it came to high jump training he was extremely disciplined and braved wounds in his handicapped leg, his coach said.
Thangavelu created history on Friday night by winning a gold medal in the men's high jump T-42 event at the Rio Paralympics.
Thangavelu made a leap of 1.89 metres to pluck the gold medal thereby putting his Periyavadagampatti village in Salem district in Tamil Nadu on the global map.
His family members and friends were much in demand by the media on Saturday.
The leap is expected to take Thangavelu's family out of poverty. He has two younger brothers and an elder sister. His mother Saroja is a daily wage earner.
The family was watching Thangavelu's golden jump live on television and they also jumped in joy.
Saroja, Thangavelu's mother, was a proud lady and thanked all the people who supported her son.
Congratulating Thangavelu on his achievement, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J.Jayalalithaa announced a cash award of Rs.2 crore for the golden boy.
"He always used to say that he should achieve something in life despite his handicap. He used to participate in all sports," Srinivasan, a friend of Thangavelu told IANS.
A holder of Bachelor's in Business Administration (BBA) degree, Thangavelu is yet to get a proper job.
He lost one of his legs at the age of five while playing outside his house when a state owned bus crushed it.
Thangavelu trained under K. Elamparithi, athletics coach at Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu (SDAT), Salem around 350 km from here.
"He was participating and winning in school and inter-collegiate events. I changed his high jump technique to Finsbury Flop from belly roll. After that his performance started climbing up along with the pole height," Elamparithi said.
"We were sure of him winning a medal based on the height cleared by high jumpers in the earlier editions of the Paralympics. In the local level events he was clearing a height of two metres," Elamparithi said.
Speaking about Thangavelu's training schedule Elamparithi said: "He is very punctual and disciplined. Despite his family circumstances he used to be there on the training grounds on time."
"He braved open wounds on his handicapped leg. When he trained continuously his leg will be hurt and there will be open wound that would take a couple of weeks to heal," Elamparithi said.
According to him, the golden boy has a shy and reserved nature and will not talk much.
Meanwhile, the coaches under contract at the SDAT are hoping that Thangavelu's achievement would pave way for stability in their life with the government appointing them on a permanent basis.