After the disappointment of the Rio Olympics, India has some reason to cheer. Mariyappan Thangavelu created history on Friday night by winning a gold medal in the men's high jump T-42 event at the Rio Paralympics.
With a leap of 1.89m, 21-year-old Mariyappan became only the third Indian ever to win gold at the Paralympic event, after swimmer Murlikant Petkar in 1972 and javelin thrower Devendra Jhajharia in 2004.
Mariyappan was born in Periavadamgatti village, about 50km away from Salem in Tamil Nadu. When he was five years old, his leg came under a vehicle on his way to school. His right knee was badly injured, resulting in permanent disability.
His mother who works as a vegetable seller, took a loan of Rs 3 lakhs for his medical treatment, and they are still struggling to pay it off.
“Life is hard but we’re somehow getting by,” he had said in an interview to Shreedutta Chidananda of The Hindu.
When he was growing up, he was more interested in volleyball, and it was his physical education instructor who saw his talent in high jump.
His coach Satyanarayana was the one who saw him at the National Para-Athletics Championship when he was just 18. In 2015, he became the World Number 1, in his first year of senior-level competition.
He won gold medal at the IPC Tunisia Grand Prix where he jumped 1.78m. Following this effort and looking ahead to Rio, he had said in May, “It is not beyond me. Even a gold is possible”.
Here’s the video of his gold-medal winning effort: