Tokyo, Aug 30: Two-time gold-winning javelin throw veteran Devendra Jhajharia clinched a stupendous third Paralympic medal, a silver this time, while discus thrower Yogesh Kathuniya also finished second as India surpassed its best ever medal tally at the Games on Monday.
Sundar Singh Gurjar also chipped in with a bronze, finishing behind Jhajharia in the men's javelin throw F46 final. India's medal count has now risen to seven, including one gold (shooting), three more than the four secured in the 2016 Rio Games.
The F46 classification is for athletes with arm deficiency, impaired muscle power or impaired passive range of movement in arms, with athletes competing in a standing position.
The 40-year-old Jhajharia, already India's greatest Paralympian after winning gold medals in the 2004 and 2016 Games, pulled off a new personal best throw of 64.35m for the silver.
Jhajharia, who lost his left hand after accidentally touching an electric wire while climbing a tree at the age of eight, bettered his own earlier world record (63.97m) but gold winner Sri Lankan Dinesh Priyan Herath Mudiyanselage (67.79m), who set a new world record, was too good for the entire field.
"In sport and competition, these kind of things happen. There are always ups and downs. I did my best and bettered my personal best. But it so happened that it was his (Sri Lankan's) day," Jhajharia told PTI after winning silver.
The 25-year-old Gurjar, who lost his left hand in 2015 after a metal sheet fell on him at his friend's house, was third with a best effort of 64.01m.
Born to a farmer father at Karauli village in Rajasthan, Gurjar had won gold in 2017 and 2019 World Para Athletics Championships. He had also won a silver in the 2018 Jakarta Para Asian Games. He currently trains at Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur.
Gurjar would often run away from school as he was less interested in studies. When he failed his Class 10 examination, his school teacher suggested him to take up sports.
Gurjar left home for Jaipur where got admitted to a sports hostel after a selection trial.
But fate was cruel as he lost his left hand in an accident and became handicapped.
All his dreams of a sports career seemed to have vanished and he even contemplated suicide, but then he heard about para sports and started training under coach M P Saini.
He made it to 2016 Rio Paralympics but was disqualified for reporting late at the call room before the event. The bronze on Monday was nothing short of redemption for him.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Jhajharia and Gurjar after their medal-winning feats and congratulated them.
Earlier, discus thrower Kathuniya clinched a silver medal in the men's F56 event.
The 24-year-old, a B.Com graduate from New Delhi's Kirorimal College, sent the disc to a best distance of 44.38m in his sixth and last attempt to clinch the silver.
India had won four medals in the 2016 editions while the medal count stands at seven in the ongoing event.
On Sunday, India had picked up a silver (high jump) and a bronze (discus throw), which is on hold due to a protest.
Son of an Army man, Kathuniya suffered a paralytic attack at the age of eight which left him with coordination impairments in his limbs.
Brazil's defending champion, reigning world champion and world record holder Claudiney Batista dos Santos won the gold with a best throw of 45.59m while Leonardo Diaz Aldana (43.36m) of Cuba took the bronze.
In F56 classification, athletes have full arm and trunk muscle power. Pelvic stability is provided by some to full ability to press the knees together.
He won a bronze medal in the 2019 World Para Athletics Championships in Dubai with a best throw of 42.51m which also booked him a Tokyo berth.
Kathuniya trained for the Paralympics without a coach and is quite proud to have finished on the podium without any tangible guidance for over one year now.
"That was amazing. Winning the silver has given me so much more motivation to get the gold medal at Paris 2024. In the last 18 months the preparations have been very tough. In India there was a six month lockdown so every stadium was closed," he said.
"When I could return to the stadium on a daily basis I had to practice by myself. I couldn't have a coach then and I am still training without a coach. It was a great moment that I could win the silver medal without a coach," he added.