Devendra Jhajharia: Khel Ratna

Blog by: Raj Kishan

Life is going to throw hurdles, traps, temptations, problems and what not. Eventually you’d figure out how to get over them or around them. But, the keyword here is; How! How you recover from what life’s throwing at you is what matter! That is what, the story of Devendra Jhajharia, the Khel Ratna award winner, Indian Paralympics’ javelin thrower (competing in F46 events), exhibits; overcoming from what life throws at you!

Devendra Jhajharia, now 36, when was just eight year old, lost his left hand. Jhajharia, at a tender boyhood age, was climbing a tree when he accidentally caught a live electric cable and was electrocuted, he received medical treatment immediately, however, on the suggestions of doctors, the incident resulted in amputation of the left hand.

Dronacharya Awardee trainer and coach R.D Singh spotted young Devendra in 1997 during a school sports day event. He encouraged him to take up sports full time and helped Devendra on his early endeavours. When he moved to college in 2000, Coach Dr. Satyapal Singh introduced him to the sport of javelin throw.

Devendra said in an interview,”I remember playing with able-bodied kids when I was young, and they would say ‘why is he wasting his time’. The challenge for me began even before I stepped on to the playing field. My fight has been of changing mindsets, of proving people wrong. I began with a small dream of representing my country and look where that persistence has brought me.” Indeed! He fought and fought hard and what he achieved is now history!

Devendra Jhajharia, who hails from the Churu District in Rajasthan, won the Gold medal at the FESPIC Games in Korea in the year 2002. Two years later, in 2004, Jhajharia qualified for his first Paralympics Games in Athens. He went on win the Gold medal, whilst setting a new world record with a distance of 62.15m, overtaking the previous best of 59.77m. What followed was a huge feat, Arjuna award! And in the year 2013 he was then honoured with the Padma Shri award.

He won Gold medal at the 2013 IPC World Championship in Lyon (France). In 2014 he won Silver medal at the Asian Para Games in Incheon(Korea). He, then worn Silver medal at IPC World Championship in Doha(Qatar) in 2015.

2016 was the year, when his sporting discipline was again included in the Paralympics, after missing from the 2008 and 2012 games. He rewrote the history books, by winning Gold by bettering his own record, by achieving a throw of 63.97m. What makes his feat even more remarkable is that, he actually managed to defend is Gold 12 years later again. His accomplishments won him recommendations for the country’s highest sporting honour; Khel Ratna.

And the two-time Paralympics gold medalist was handed the Khel Ratna Award by India’s 14th President Ramnath Kovind, he became the first Indian Para athlete to receive the country’s highest sporting honour; a proud moment for sports fraternity in India.

Former Indian Railways employee, Jhajharia now works with Sports authority of India, making and shaping youths for tomorrow.

Speaking about his achievements Devendra says, “I hope this honour inspires more and more athletes from the small towns of our country to chase their dreams. This award shows that you can achieve what many believe is unachievable,” making the saying nothing is impossible proven right again!