There have been only a few athletes who have won a medal at the quadrennial event for the nation.
India has been participating in the Paralympics since their debut in 1968 in Tel Aviv, Israel. Although, their first taste of the event turned out to be a disappointment. The 10 participating athletes returned without a securing a podium finish. However, India clinched its first Paralympics medal in the very next edition, at the 1972 Heidelberg Games in Germany.
There was a gap of 12 years after the first medal but India has gradually produced incredible para-athletes. Rio Paralympics in 2016 also saw four medal winners, including two gold. With the upcoming 2020 Paralympics, it is a great opportunity to look back at the winners of the past.
Here are all the previous medal winning Indian athletes at the Paralympics:
Murlikant Petkar – 1972 Heidelberg
Murlikant Petkar is the first-ever Indian para-athlete to win a medal at the Paralympics. He won India’s first gold medal at the 1972 Heidelberg Games in the swimming event. The Padma Shri recipient won the gold in Men’s 50m Freestyle swimming contest. He also remains the only para-athlete to win a medal in swimming.
Bhimrao Kesarkar – 1984 New York
There was a gap of 12 years for India’s next Paralympics medal. Bhimrao Kesarka broke the curse by winning the silver medal in men’s javelin throw at the 1984 New York Games. His was the first of four medals India would go on to win.
Joginder Singh Bedi – 1984 New York
Joginder Singh Bedi was crucial behind the four medals India brought home from the 1984 Paralympic Games. He went on to win three medals at the quadrennial event. He began with a silver medal in men’s shot put, while the second and third were two bronze medals in the javelin throw and discus throw.
Devendra Jhajharia – 2004 Athens
There was another huge draught of medals for India at the Paralympics. However, Devendra Jhajharia ended a 20-year wait for a Paralympics medal. He did so by winning India’s second gold medal in the multi-sport event’s history. The Rajasthan-born para-athlete won the gold in men’s Javelin throw and received the Arjuna Award in the same year.
Rajinder Singh Rahelu – 2004 Athens
India collected two medals at the 2004 Summer Paralympics. Building on Devendra Jhajharia’s success, Rajinder Singh Rahelu delivered the bronze medal. He won the medal in the men’s 56kg powerlifting event. This was also India’s second Paralympics medal from a sport not part of the athletics.
Girisha Nagarajegowda – 2012 London
India had a disappointing run of zero medals at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing, China. Following the debacle in 2008, India did not perform much better in the 2012 Paralympics in London. Girisha Nagarajegowda was the sole medal winner there. He won the silver in men’s high jump by overcoming 1.74 meters. Girisha became the first Indian to win a medal in high jump and eighth overall para-athlete to win a Paralympics medal.
Mariyappan Thangavelu – 2016 Rio
Mariyappan Thangavelu became the second Indian para-athlete to win a medal in the high jump event. He opened India’s account at the 2016 Rio Paralympics by winning the gold medal. He went on to receive the Padma Shri award and the Arjuna Award in 2017.
Devendra Jhajharia – 2016 Rio
Devendra Jhajharia is the first Indian para-athlete to win two gold medals at the Paralympics. He won the gold medal in men’s javelin throw at the 2016 Rio Paralympics. Devendra’s second gold was also second of the two golds India would win in Rio.
Deepa Malik – 2016 Rio
Deepa Malik created history in the previous edition of the Paralympics. She became the first-ever Indian female para-athlete to win a medal at the quadrennial event. Deepa Malik secured the silver in women’s shot put in Rio. She is also a four-time Asian Para Games medal winner.
Varun Singh Bhati – 2016 Rio
Varun Singh Bhati capped off India’s very successful Rio Paralympics campaign by winning the fourth medal. He won the bronze in men’s high jump, behind compatriot Mariyappan Thangavelu and USA’s Sam Grewe. Bhati also went on to win the silver medal in the high jump during the 2018 Asian Para Games.