Eleven days. 23 sports. 4,300 athletes from 160 countries. 528 gold to be won. Barely two weeks after Rio bade goodbye to the Usain Bolts and Michael Phelpss, the city will play host to a sports extravaganza like no other—the Paralympics 2016—from September 7 to 18.
India, as in the case of Rio Summer Olympics, has sent its largest ever contingent for the Paralympics. There will be 19 athletes competing in 10 disciplines. Unfortunately, the Indian campaign is already in news for the wrong reasons—the national flag without the white stripe in between on the blazers of the athletes, which also don't have 'India' written on the back, and lack of TV coverage of the event in India.
Hoping that such aberrations do not distract the athletes, here's looking at India's five medal prospects:
The 35-year-old from Rajasthan is one of India's best bets, having won the gold in javelin throw at the 2004 Athens Paralympics. Jhajharia lost his left arm below the elbow when he accidentally touched a live wire. A Padma Shri recipient, he has been a consistent performer, having won the gold at the World Championship in 2013, silver in 2014 Incheon Asian Para Games, and silver again at the World IPC Para-athletics meet in 2015.
Amit Kumar Saroha
A former national level hockey player from Haryana, Saroha took to para-games after a car accident at the age of 22 left him confined to the wheelchair. After having dabbled in wheelchair rugby, he found his calling in club throw, where the athlete throws a wooden club—the para-version of hammer throw. He will be high on confidence, having won the gold at the French Open Athletics Championship this year. An Arjuna Award recipient, Saroha won the gold in club throw and silver medal in discus throw at the 2014 Incheon Asian Para Games, and a silver in club throw at the 2015 World Championships in Doha. He is also credited with bringing young athletes like Rampal Chahar, Dharambir and Rinku into the world of para-sports.
Five medals in less than a year is a monumental achievement. No wonder, the 28-year-old discus thrower from Haryana is expected to become the first Indian woman to win a medal at the Paralympics. A former kabaddi player, Dalal was paralysed waist downwards after a fall from the terrace. She made the world sit up and take notice of her when she won two bronze at the 2014 Incheon Asian Para Games and followed it up with three gold at the National Games. Though she finished fourth at the World Championship in 2015, her meteoric rise has raised hopes in the Indian camp.
The 26-year-old high-jumper has three degrees to his name! Having lost his right arm below the wrist, which got caught in a farm chopper, Chahar was inspired to take up para-sports by Saroha. He is the current national record holder and with a gold at the IPC Grand Prix in Tunisia this year with a jump of 1.85m, the Haryana lad seems to be peaking at the right time.
The only Indian para-swimmer to qualify for Rio, the 22-year-old lad from Maharashtra will be competing in the 50m butterfly event—his favourite one—at his first Paralympics. A double amputee, Jadhav lost his hands after he accidentally touched a live wire when he was 11. He was introduced to para-sports by Umesh Godse, another para-athlete. Jadhav won a bronze in 100m breaststroke at the IWAS World Games in Bengaluru in 2009, and a silver in 50m butterfly and a bronze in 200m individual medley when the Games was held in Russia in 2015. The same year, at the Winter Open Polish Championships, he won a gold, one silver and two bronze.