At 40, Devendra Jhajharia eyes record third gold in Tokyo | Tokyo Olympics News
JAIPUR: Having distinction of winning two gold medals in as many Games, India's first paralympian to win gold, Devendra Jhajharia has not only added years to his age but has grown wiser since Athens 2004 podium finish. At 23, when he took part in the Athens Olympics, the javelin thrower was more adrenaline-driven and reliant on natural agility that comes with youth. At 40, he is equanimous and is doing rigorous fitness training to match the standards of the flagship tournament.
Jhajharia says neither Athens nor Rio was easy and so would be Tokyo. "But over the years there has been a change in my approach which comes from experience and success that I have got over the years. No doubt, I have become calm and my training is more streamlined now. Earlier I never thought about managing my weight, but now I have reduced 7kgs and that has helped me increase my speed," Jhajharia said.
There are a few other things that have undergone a change too. "When I started, I used to wear Rs 250 spikes brought from a factory in Jalandhar. I wore them in Athens as well and when I saw other athletes wearing 15k-20k spikes, the immediate thought was, ' inko main performance main peechey chodd dunga' (With my performance, I will leave everyone behind). For me it was a unique thing to see athletes being accompanied with their coaches and physiotherapists as I had gone without them at that point of time," recalled the para-athlete from Churu district in Rajasthan.
With achievements, came facilities. "It was in the Rio Olympics 2016 that things changed for me as I upgraded myself in terms of everything. But the biggest change was when the central government made sure that para-athletes were included in the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS). It was then I hired Sunil Tanwar as my coach in 2015," Jhajharia said.
The Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award winner says, now his success is not just about himself, but it's a team effort. "My coach Sunil, strength and conditioning coach Lakshya Batra, and physiotherapist Biren Shah have put in a lot of effort to ensure I make it to Tokyo and be a strong medal contender," he added. The paralympian has an amputated left arm almost till elbow and competes in javelin F46 events.
With focus on Tokyo, Jhajhariya has made Sports Authority of India's (SAI) centre in Gandhinagar his home from the last 10 months and video calls a means to connect with his family in Jaipur. Even when his father passed away last year in October, it was a touch-and-go visit to home. His mother insisted he must go back and resume training and focus on getting another medal for the country and accomplish his father's dream to see him complete a hat-trick of gold medals in Paralympics.
India's most successful para-athlete is single-mindedly focusing on getting the third gold and feels expectations are even higher this time. "Having broken my own world record of 63.97m in the Rio Games with a spear throw of 65.71m in July during national trials in Delhi, I strongly feel I can live up to the expectations of everyone. In Tokyo my target is to hurl my spear as far as 67-69 metres," Jhajharia concluded.
August 21, 2021, 5:01 am