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Top 10 Indian athletes at the Paralympics of all-time

Published at :August 14, 2021 at 11:56 PM
Modified at :December 13, 2023 at 1:01 PM
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(Courtesy : indianexpress/pune365/pib)

Gaurav Singh

These players have won numerous accolades in their respective careers.

The Tokyo Paralympics draw closer with each passing day and this time, Indian para athletes are more focused than ever before. India is sending it's biggest ever contingent to the Paralympics with a total of 54 athletes participating from the nation.

India has been participating in the Paralympics since it's debut in 1968 in Tel Aviv, Israel. The nation's first taste of the event turned out to be a disappointment, however, a lot of Indian para-athletes returned with medals in the following editions.

As the historic moment edges closer, let's take a look at the top 10 athletes the country has sent to the Paralympics over the years.

10. Amit Kumar Saroha

The only non-medalist in the list, Amit is a highly successful para-athlete. He was a medal winner at the IPC Athletics World Championships on two occasions, winning silver in the 2015 and 2017 events in the men’s club throw event in the F-51 category. Amit also won the gold in the same event in the 2014 Asian Para Games. He finished fourth in the same event at the Rio Paralympics, narrowly missing out on a medal.

9. Rajinder Singh Rahelu

The Punjab native was a victim of infantile paralysis and contracted polio when he was eight-months-old. The powerlifter competed in the 56kg category at the 2004 Paralympic Games and won a bronze medal. He is a recipient of the 2006 Arjuna Award. One of the best para-athletes in India, Rahelu also competed in the 2008 Paralympics in powerlifting. However, he could only manage a fifth place finish.

8. Varun Singh Bhati

Tokyo Paralympic Games
Bhati won a bronze medal in Rio (Credit: Paralympics)

Affected by polio at a young age, Varun Singh Bhati took to sports during his school days. Competing in the T42 category, Bhati had his moment in the spotlight when he registered the A qualification mark for the 2012 Paralympics. He continued to improve and his shining moment came in 2016 when he won the bronze with a remarkable personal best jump of 1.86m in Rio. He followed that with a bronze in the 2017 World Para Athletics Championships.

7. Bhimrao Kesarkar

Bhimrao is one of India’s earliest para-athletes to win a medal in the Paralympic Games. He took part in the 1984 Paralympics and was one of the two athletes to win medals at the Games. Bhimrao won the silver in the men’s javelin throw event in the L6 class.

6. Deepa Malik

Malik will look to win more medals in Tokyo (via-Paralympics)

The 2016 Paralympics is India’s most successful one so far. With two gold medals, a silver and a bronze, the games also featured India’s first-ever female Paralympics medalist. Deepa Malik is an all-around phenom and has competed across various disciplines at a high level. Her biggest success came on the athletic stage where she won the silver in the IPC World Championships in 2011 in shot put. She then competed in the 2016 Rio Paralympics and came away with the silver medal in the F53 class in the shot put event.

5. Girisha Nagarajegowda

Born with a disability in his left leg, Girisha was primed for success when he won sports meets while competing against normal sportsmen. His success translated to the global stage when he won the silver in the 2012 Summer Paralympics in London. Competing the F-42 category, Girisha jumped 1.74 meters to clinch second place. He has since then received the Padma Shri in 2013 and the Arjuna Award in 2014.

4. Murlikant Petkar

Petkar won the first ever medal for India in Paralympics (Credit: KreedOn)

Murlikant Petkar is India’s first ever gold medallist at the Paralympics. A former Indian Army personnel, he suffered an injury during his time with the defence forces, due to the severe bullet wounds from the 1965 war against Pakistan. After the injury, he began to focus on sports. Petkar had competed in the 1968 Paralympics, representing India in table tennis.

His successful stint came in the 1972 edition in Heidelberg when he won the gold medal in 50m freestyle swimming, thus becoming India’s first ever Paralympics medallist. In the same edition, he was also a finalist in javelin and slalom. Petkar was awarded the Padma Shri in 2018.

3. Joginder Singh Bedi

Joginder Singh Bedi stole the show for India at the 1984 Paralympic games with fine performances in athletics’ disciplines. Bedi competed at the L6 category and won three medals in total, with a second placed finish in men’s shot put. He also won bronze medals in the javelin and discus throw events. Bedi holds the record of being the Indian with the most Paralympic medals.

2. Mariyappan Thangavelu

Thangavelu created history in Rio (Credits: Paralympics)

Only one of three gold medal-winning Paralympians, Mariyappan transformed himself into a national hero when he won the gold medal at the 2016 Rio Paralympics. He won the high jump (T42) gold after clearing 1.89 m with his leap. Mariyappan was also awarded the Padma Shri and Arjuna awards in 2017 for his contribution to the sport. He was also given the Khel Ratna Award in 2020. Mariyappan is set to compete in the T63 high jump category in the Tokyo Paralympics.

1. Devendra Jhajharia

Devendra Jhajharia is one of India’s most decorated athletes at the Paralympics. The Arjuna Award winner in 2004, Jhajharia has no left hand after it was amputated due to an electricity-based accident. He competed in the 2004 Athens Olympics, where he won the gold medal by setting the world record in the Javelin F44/46 event. 

He stood on the top step of the podium 12 years later when he won the gold in the 2016 edition held in Rio. Jhajharia is also a recipient of the Khel Ratna award in 2017. He is also competing in the 2020 edition with an aim of increasing his medal count.

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