In a historic moment for India, Mariyappan Thangavelu won the gold medal while compatriot Varun Singh Bhati clinched the bronze in the men’s high jump T-42 event on Saturday at the Rio Paralympics.
Mariyappan jumped a staggering 1.89 m, skipping on one leg during the entire process to win the gold medal.
But, just two years ago he was not even jumping 1.75m. Discipline and motivation helped this 20-year-old young boy to win the gold medal.
Mariyappan is currently the No. 1 in this game. But behind the successful man, there was a painful story. Mariyappan, before the tournament, once revealed his plight. “I might be world number 1, but life is tough for me back home. My mom works as a vegetable seller back in my village’s market and it’s getting increasingly difficult for me to pay my loan. If I don’t win a medal in Rio, then it just might be the end of the road for me. I don’t have any money and I have to start supporting my mother.”
Mariyappan at the age of 5 lost his right leg, as a bus ran over his leg. He needed Rs. 3 lacks for the operation, his mother mortgaged the house in order to pay his medical bill. They are yet to return the amount to the bank.
The accident took a financial toll on the family. He said, “Till date I have earned approximately Rs 0 through my jumping, even when I won the IPC Grand Prix event, I didn’t get anything. My mother makes a total of Rs 5,000 a month, do you think a bank loan can be paid off at that amount? I need to win this because the prize money will help me clear the loan and also help me give my mother a comfortable life something that she deserves.”
Now the Indian Sports Ministry has announced a Rs. 75 Lacs reward for him and the news just came in that Rs. 2cr has been announced by TN government.
Now he is planning to build a proper house for his family and also invest in foreign exposure, in an attempt to break the world.
He added, “This year was my standout year, I came face to face against the world’s finest and beat them, in the biggest competitions. However, I somehow came out of it with a win. I though qualification would give me something so that I could send it back home, but it isn’t the case. For me it’s always been about paying the loan and getting a government job, being honest the real problem is I don’t know how to do anything else.”
However, Mariyappan just before the Rio Paralympics has finally reached all mainstream media outlets. But, now after his Gold medal haul, Indian media ushered praise on him.
Mariyappan to an Indian sports channel said, “We did it, I really want to know how mom reacted, did she watch on TV? Please tell her from my side, that we can now live a more comfortable life. I’m sure India will embrace our achievements, and I request everyone to now take para-sports seriously. We train 24/7 for just 30 minutes, it’s taken lots of sacrifices from my family to help me reach here. Now it’s my turn to give back to them.”