India made an impressive start to its campaign at the Paralympic Games with Mariyappan Thangavelu creating history by bagging the gold while Varun Bhati won the bronze medal in the men’s T42 high jump on the second day of the mega-event, here.
But it was a disappointment for another Indian athlete Sharad Kumar who failed to finish on the podium.
Thangavelu won gold with a best effort of 1.89m while Bhati’s best jump of 1.86m got him the bronze. USA’s Sam Grewe, also with a best jump of 1.86m, took the silver.
T-42 is a disability classification in the sport for differently-abled track-and-field athletes with single ‘above the knee’ amputations or a comparable disability.
After Thangavelu and Bhati's feat, India's overall medal tally in all Paralympic Games has reached 10 - three golds, three silvers and four bronze. At the 2012 Paralympics, HN Girisha became the first Indian high-jumper to win a medal.
A total of 17 para-athletes, the largest-ever delegation from the country, are representing India at the Rio Paralympic Games, from September 7 to 18.
The Sports Ministry had earlier announced that Indian gold medallists from the Paralympic Games will be awarded Rs 75 lakh, the silver medallists will get Rs 50 lakh while Rs 30 lakh will be given to the bronze medallists.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa also announced a cash reward of Rs.2 crore for Mariyappan.
The 20-year-old Mariyappan hails from a small village of Periavadagampatti, 50km from Salem, in Tamil Nadu.
At the age of five, a bus accident left him with a permanent disability. He was going to school when the bus took a wrong turn and ran over Thangavelu's right leg, damaging it below knee.
But that was not a deterrent for Thangavelu to pursue his dreams. In his first competition, he competed with able-bodied athletes and finished second. His rise has been steady since then.
In March, Thangavelu cleared a height of 1.78m at the IPC Grand Prix in Tunisia, to achieve the A-Qualification Standard of 1.60 at Paralympics.
Bronze medal winner Bhati was diagnosed with polio at a very young age as one of his legs got deformed. Despite the difficulty, Bhati went on to become a champion athlete.
The 21-year-old from Uttar Pradesh finished fifth at the 2014 Asian Para Games in Incheon, (Korea) and won a gold medal at the 2014 China Open Athletics Championship, the same year.