Out of the 54 athletes from India in Tokyo Paralympics 2020, the largest ever contingent so far, 14 women will be representing the country. Here’s a list of the paralympians that are the face of the country.
Jyoti Baliyan, Archery
Uttar Pradesh’s 27 year old Jyothi is the only female archer from India that qualified to Tokyo Paralympics this time. Baliyan originally started her dream as a Volleyball player but she had to give it up at the age of 10 after being affected with polio. Her father introduced her to archery and now she practices around eight hours everyday in dreams of winning an Olympics medal in honour of her late father.
Simran Sharma, Athlete
India’s first female para athlete to qualify for 100m event at Tokyo Paralympics, Simran is the 21 year old who was the winner at the Para Athletics GP in China. Her impaired vision condition limits her view to seven to ten meters but this didn’t hinder her from setting records at 12.74 seconds while winning the World Para Athletics GP in Dubai, in February this year.
Kashish Lakra, Club throw
At the age of just 17, Lakra is the youngest athlete from India participating in Tokyo Paralympics in the category of Women’s Club Throw F51. Lakra met with a training accident in 2017 leaving her with serious vertebral injuries and confined her to a wheelchair but as the former wrestler and skater recovered from this, she took up the sport of club throw and eventually mastering it winning medals at state, national and international level competitions.
Ekta Bhyan, Club throw
When an accident in 2003 left Ekta paralysed at the age of 18, she had to give up her dreams of becoming a doctor. She took up sports during her recovery and started training under Paralympian Amit Kumar Saroha in discus throw who pushed her to become a para athlete. She consecutively won golds from 2016 to 2018 in Para National Championships and soon after at the 2018 Asian Para Games too.
Bhagyashri Jadhav, Shot Put
The 36 year old Bhagyashri had won a silver medal earlier this year at World Para Athletics GP with her 6.18m throw in Shot Put. She had also won the bronze in women’s javelin F34 at the World Para Athletics GP in Dubai earlier this year too.
Parul Parmar, Badminton
Parul, who was diagnosed with polio at the age of three, had fallen off a swing and fractured her leg and collarbone the same year. She took up badminton after seeing her father, a state-level player and participated in her first Para Badminton World Cup at 29. In 2009, Parmar was the recipient of the Arjuna Award and has been working as a badminton coach at the SAI centre in Gandhinagar since 2011. She has previously won golds and silvers at different Para World Championships.
Palak Kohli, Badminton
Another young and budding athlete Palak, at the age of 19 will be representing India in Women's Singles SU5, Women's Doubles SL3-SU5 and Mixed Doubles SL3-SU5 categories. She will be seen alongside Pramod Bhagat and Parul Parmar in the doubles tournaments. Palak is the only Indian badminton player to be participating in three events.
Prachi Yadav, Canoeing
On her coach’s suggestion, the 26 year old national para-swimmer Prachi switched to para-canoe in 2018. She won a gold and silver at the 2019 Para Canoe Championships, her first two medals. Prachi was looking to qualify for the 2024 Paris Paralympics but postponement of the games due to the pandemic gave her enough time to practice and qualify for Tokyo Paralympics. Prachi will be the first ever and lone Indian entrant in this event.
Sakina Khatun, Powerlifting
Khatun, who was affected by polio in her childhood, was advised by doctors to swim inorder to strengthen her muscles during recovery. She started powerlifting in 2010 and won bronze in 2014 Commonwealth Games as the first ever Indian woman paralifter to achieve this and a silver at the 2018 Para Asian Games. On account of India being handed the bipartite quotes in this event, she qualified alongside powerlifter Jaideep Kumar Deswal.
Rubina Francis, Shooting
Rubina, who was born with a disability in her leg, has been training in professional shooting since 2015. A student who took up sports aside from academics, she joined Gagan Narang’s Gun for Glory Shooting Academy which was advertised in her school. She competed in her first international tournament in 2017 at the Para Shooting World Championship in Dubai. At the Asian Para Games in 2018 she competed in the P2 women’s 10m air pistol SH1 event.
Avani Lekhara, Shooting
Another one of the youngest members of this year’s contingent, Avani at the age of 19 is the current World No. 5 in the women’s 10m air rifle standing SH1 event. A car accident in 2012 had injured Avani’s spinal cord and confined her to wheelchair and three years later she tried shooting and archery on her father’s insistence. She won the silver at the 2021 Para SHooting World Cup. Lekhara was inspired by Abhinav Bindra’s autobiography and is now supported by OGQ.
Sonalben Patel, Table Tennis
Affected by polio at a very tender age, Sonal was left with 90% disability but with the support of her parents she has not let the disability hinder her from sports. She took up table tennis after her superintendent at the Blind People’s Association in Ahmedabad, Tejalben Lakhia encouraged her to. She has been training under coach Lalan Doshi who has been helping her fulfil her dreams.
Bhavinaben Patel, Table Tennis
Bhavina who plays Table tennis from her wheelchair had taken it up for a fun pastime but after realising she was good at it, she trained professionally. In her first National Championship she made it to bronze and has since been progressing. Currently, Patel is the 12th ranked player in her class.
Aruna Tanwar, Taekwondo
Aruna, who took up Taekwondo in 2008 as an eight year old, is now ranked fourth in the world. Her first medal, she won a bronze at the 2015 junior nationals while she participated as an able-bodied athlete till 2017 after which she was declared ineligible due to her arms not being fully formed and having three fingers in each hand. She has been a five-time national champion and is one of the eight athletes on a bipartite commission invitation for Tokyo by World Taekwondo and International Paralympic Committee (IPC).
The athletes representing India at the Tokyo Paralympics have not only been the face of the nation but also inspiring young individuals, all alike to take up sports and proving that disabilities is not a hindrance to a strong willed individual.