India have booked as many as 13 Tokyo 2020 spots at the Dubai 2019 World Para Athletics Championships last November.

Top Indian para-athletes including Paralympic medallist Thangavelu Mariyappan, world record holder Sandeep Chaudhary and double world champion Sundar Singh Gurjar will be in action when the 19th National Para Athletics Championships take place at the Chamundi Vihar Stadium in Mysuru from March 26 to 28, 2020.

The three-day event, approved by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), holds importance in terms of being the last event to secure qualification slots for Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. The Tokyo 2020 qualification deadline for Para Athletics is April 1, 2020. Thus, as many as 1,600 athletes from across the country are expected to feature in the event in various disciplines. It is also for the first time the city is hosting this event.

Moreover, the National Championships will be the first major competition to be organised by the newly elected Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) body after being derecognised by the sports ministry in September. Decorated para-athlete Deepa Malik, silver medallist in Rio 2016 Paralympics, was elected as the president of the newly-elected body. Malik, who is keen to work towards the growth of the Paralympic Movement in the country, has already expressed her plans to host a Junior Championships in October.

While the athletes have expressed their happiness on the return of the National Para Athletics Championship after almost two years, the PCI hoped that the event will provide a good platform for several youngsters to play alongside the Tokyo Paralympic-bound athletes besides a warm up for the latter.

India have booked as many as 13 Tokyo 2020 spots at the Dubai 2019 World Para Athletics Championships last November. Mariyappan, Chaudhary and Gurjar are among those who brought home the laurels.

Athletes excited about competing in Nationals

Chaudhary, who took the gold and broke the world record in F64 men’s javelin event in Dubai, told Paralympic Committee of India: “This will be my 5th National Para Athletics Championship. I am very excited to be part of the event. It will also be a great opportunity for all Indian athlete before Tokyo 2020 to secure more and more qualification slots.”

While others like club and discus thrower Ekta Bhyan who also secured a slot with fourth place finish in Dubai, said: “We all para athletes are very excited for the upcoming National Para Athletics Championship, as it is taking place after almost two years. Moreover, this event has the approval of the International Paralympic Committee and shall be the last qualifying event for athletes to confirm their participation in Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. It will provide us a good preparation.”

Mariyappan, who trains under coach Satyanarayana in Bengaluru, would be eager to perform in front of the home fans. “His (Mariyappan’s) training is going well. He should come up with a good show,” said coach Satyanarayana.

PCI confident suspension to be revoked soon

Meanwhile, the PCI was confident that the Sports Ministry will soon revoke the suspension imposed on the body last year. The new Committee came into being after the Delhi High Court order in January 2020 which allowed the PCI election to be notified.

In this case, the High Court order would also apply to the government of India who is also one of the parties in the case and PCI secretary general Gursharan Singh was hopeful that the Indian government will abide by the order and revoke the suspension at the earliest.

“We have submitted our papers to the International Paralympic Committee and to the Registrar of Societies in Karnataka. And we are now awaiting the completion of formalities by the Registrar of Societies after which we will submit it to the Sports Ministry and hope that within two to three weeks, the government will revoke our suspension,” said Singh at a press conference.

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“Even if the government does not recognise our body, still our athletes can feature under India flag in the Paralympic Games. We have been suspended by the ministry, but not by the international body, IPC. The only disadvantage of being suspended by the Sports Ministry is that the PCI is not entitled to funds from the Ministry.”

“We are looking forward to brighter days in the coming weeks.”