Five gold, eight silver and six bronze – India registered their best-ever medal haul at the Summer Paralympics in Tokyo that concluded on Sunday. Eclipsing the country’s previous best of four medals each in 1984 New York and 2016 Rio Games, the Indian para-athletes surprised everyone by coming close to the 20-medal mark. They have certainly laid a benchmark for their able-bodied counterparts to achieve at Paris 2024.
From historic firsts in table tennis to archery, the Indians dominated in almost every sport during their 12-day stay at the Japanese capital and paved the way for more in the upcoming Paris 2024. Nineteen-year-old Avani Lekhara was the standout star as she became the first Indian woman to win a Paralympic gold. She went one better, by finishing with a second medal in shooting.
Here is a look at all the Indian medallists from Tokyo Paralympics 2020:
Avani Lekhara (Gold & Bronze)
This was Avani Lekhara’s Paralympics. Making her debut at the world’s biggest stage, the 19-year-old from Jaipur, shot a new Paralympic record of 249.6 in the women’s 10m air rifle shooting standing SH1 category final to claim India’s first gold medal in Tokyo. Lekhara made her journey more memorable when she claimed a bronze in the women's 50m rifle 3 positions SH1 category to become the first Indian woman to win two Paralympics medals at the same Summer Paralympics.
Avani Lekhara was left with complete paraplegia (a spinal cord injury that paralyses the lower limbs) following a car accident in 2012 at the age of 11.
Singhraj Adhana (Silver & Bronze)
After Avani Lekhara, Singhraj Adhana gave India their second shooting medal at the Tokyo Paralympics with a bronze in the men’s 10m air pistol SH1 category. Shooting 216.8 in the final, Adhana took the third step on the podium behind defending champion, China’s Chao Yang (gold) and silver-medallist Chinese Xing Huang.
The 39-year-old Singhraj Adhana added another Tokyo Paralympics medal to his tally when he won silver in the men's 50m pistol SH1 category. Adhana is affected by polio-impaired lower limbs.
Manish Narwal (Gold)
Manish Narwal won India’s third gold medal at the Tokyo Paralympics. After finishing seventh during the men's 50m pistol SH1 category qualification round, Manish Narwal upped his ante at the Asaka Shooting Range to shoot a Paralympic record-setting 218.2 to claim the yellow metal. The 19-year-old suffers from a congenital ailment in his right hand.
Pramod Bhagat (Gold)
Coming into the competition as the World No. 1, Pramod Bhagat was touted as one of the medal contenders and the Odisha lad didn’t disappoint as he became India’s first-ever badminton gold medallist in the men's singles SL3 category at the 2020 Paralympics. He defeated Great Britain’s Daniel Bethell 21-14, 21-17 in the final.
The 33-year-old Bhagat was affected by polio in his left leg when he was just four years old.
Krishna Nagar defeated Hong Kong's Chu Man Kai 21-17 16-21 21-17 to claim the second gold medal in badminton after Pramod Bhagat. AP Photo
Krishna Nagar (Gold)
Shuttler Krishna Nagar capped off India’s brilliant Tokyo Paralympics campaign with gold in the men’s singles SH6 category. The 22-year-old defeated Hong Kong’s Chu Man Kai 21-17, 16-21, 21-17 to take home an elusive yellow metal.
Unlike others, Nagar’s disability classification is for players of short stature.
Suhas Yathiraj (Silver)
Adding more to the badminton tally at the Tokyo Paralympics, Suhas Yathiraj gave India their third in the sport with a silver in the men’s singles SL4 event. Competing against Lucas Mazur of France in the final, Yathiraj went down 21-15, 17-21, 15-21 when it mattered the most. Yathiraj is also the first Indian IAS officer to win a Paralympics medal. He suffers congenital deformity in one of his legs.
Manoj Sarkar (Bronze)
Manoj Sarkar accompanied Bhagat to the podium as he clinched the bronze medal in the men’s singles SL3 category. After losing to Bethell in the semifinal, the Bengal-born Sarkar defeated Japanese Daisuke Fujihara 22-20, 21-13 to claim the third position.
Sarkar suffers from a PPRP lower limb condition after being treated wrongly at the age of one.
Sumit Antil produced a monster throw in the fifth attempt to destroy the 10-men field. AP Photo
Sumit Antil (Gold)
What the fancied Jhajharia or Gurjar couldn’t do at the Tokyo Paralympics, Sumit Antil did. The 23-year-old sent his spear to 68.55m to clinch an elusive gold breaking his own world record thrice in the process in the men’s javelin throw F64 category. Sumit Antil has lost his left leg under the knee following a devastating motorbike accident in 2015.
Devendra Jhajharia (Silver)
Regarded as one of the legends in the sporting fraternity and with two Paralympic gold medals (2004 and 2016) to his name, Devendra Jhajharia lived up to the expectations with a silver in the men’s javelin throw F46 category. Jhajharia threw the spear to 64.35m in the final behind Sri Lankan Armyman Dinesh Herath (67.79m) to become India’s most decorated Paralympian in history.
The 41-year-old Jhajharia had to amputate his left hand after he touched a live electric cable while trying to climb a tree at the age of eight.
Sundar Singh Gurjar (Bronze)
Continuing India’s good show in the men’s javelin F46 category, Sundar Singh Gurjar finished just behind Jhajharia to clinch bronze with an attempt of 64.01m to win his maiden Paralympics medal. Fate was cruel for Gurjar when a metal sheet fell on his left hand in 2015 at a friend’s house to render him handicapped for life.
Nishad Kumar (Silver)
Hailing from Una in Himachal Pradesh, Nishad Kumar surprised everyone with a men’s high jump silver at the Tokyo Paralympics. With a jump of 2.06m, the youngster equalled his personal best to claim the second position on the podium alongside USA’s American Dallas Wise in the T47 category. Kumar’s mark was also an Asian record. Wise’s compatriot Roderick Townsend-Roberts clinched gold with a world record of 2.15m. Kumar had lost his right hand in a tragic accident when he was eight years old.
Mariyappan Thangavelu (Silver)
Mariyappan Thangavelu was greeted with an unusual welcome in Tokyo after he came in close contact with a COVID-19 positive passenger and was immediately sent into isolation. The unfortunate incident also robbed him of carrying the Indian flag during the opening ceremony. However, all these couldn’t deter the 26-year-old as the Tamil Nadu lad bagged silver in the men’s high jump T42 category with 1.86m.
Thangavelu had earlier won gold in the same event at the 2016 Rio Olympics. He suffered a permanent disability on his right leg when he was run over by a bus at the age of five.
Praveen Kumar (Silver)
Praveen Kumar’s silver was India’s fourth high jump medal at the Tokyo Paralympics. The Noida teenager cleared 2.07m in the final to take the podium in the men’s T64 category only behind world champion Jonathan Broom-Edwards of Great Britain (2.10m), who took gold.
Praveen suffers from congenital deformity (change in the normal size or shape of a body part caused by a condition that a baby is born with) in his left leg.
Sharad Kumar (Bronze)
Joining Thangavelu on the podium was Sharad Kumar, who clinched bronze clearing 1.83m in the men’s high jump T42 category. The former World No.1 had finished sixth at the 2016 Rio Paralympics and was barred from competing in London in 2012 after testing positive for a banned substance.
The Bihar-born Kumar suffered paralysis in his left leg after taking fake polio medicine at a local eradication drive at the age of two.
On National Sports Day, Bhavinaben Patel wins historic medal for India. AP Photo
Bhavina Patel (Silver)
Following India’s dismal show at the Tokyo Olympics, Bhavina Patel filled the void when she gave India their first table tennis Paralympic medal in Tokyo. After losing to World No.1 Zhou Ying of China in her opening Group A encounter, the 34-year-old from Gujarat made a brilliant comeback to dispatch Megan Shackleton (Great Britain), Joyce de Oliveira (Brazil), Borislava Rankovic Peric (Serbia) and Chinese Zhang Miao en route to the summit clash.
However, in the final, it was the same Chinese Ying that she surrendered for silver. Bhavina was diagnosed with polio when she was 12 months old.
Yogesh Kathuniya (Silver)
India won their first discus throw medal at the biggest stage when Yogesh Kathuniya brought silver home in the men’s F56 category at the Tokyo Paralympics. Kathuniya threw the disc to 44.58m, his personal best, just 1.01m behind gold medallist Brazil’s Claudiney Batistia dos Santos.
Kathuniya suffered Guillain-Barre syndrome and consequent quadriparesis at the age of nine confining him to a wheelchair in 2006. However, it was his mother Meena Devi, who gave physiotherapy to her son and within three years, Kathuniya gained muscle strength and was able to walk again.
Harvinder Singh (Bronze)
Putting an end to India’s Olympic archery woes in Tokyo, Harvinder Singh bagged men’s individual recurve bronze at the Paralympics to etch his name into the history books. The 30-year-old defeated South Korean Kim Min Su 6-5 in a thrilling shoot-off to take home India’s maiden archery medal at this stage.
A native of the Kaithal district in Haryana, Harvinder suffered impairment in his left leg after being injected wrongly by a local doctor when he was just 18 months old. He is pursuing a PhD in Economics.