Indian athletes created history on Saturday when Mariyappan Thangavelu and Varun Singh Bhati won the gold and bronze medal respectively in the men’s high jump T-42 event at the Rio Paralympics.
Thangavelu became India’s first gold medallist at the Rio Paralympics with a jump of 1.89m and Bhati followed that performance up with a jump of 1.86m to cap off a brilliant day for the Indians in athletics at the Paralympics.
Meanwhile Deepa Malik became the first Indian woman to win a Paralympic medal after getting silver in the women’s shot put competition.
The stories of these athletes are inspiring to say the least. Thangavelu’s mother sells vegetables for a living and is still paying off a Rs.3 lacs debt which she took for his operation. Bhati suffered polio as a child – but that did not stop him. Deepa Malik has overcome spinal tumor, 31 surgeries and 183 stitches.
Around 4,350 athletes from more than 160 countries are competing in 528 medal events in 22 different sports in this year’s paralympics. We sent 19 athletes for this competition vs. 117 athletes sent by the Indian Olympics Association for the Olympics this year.
Optimists projected that would bring home a record 10 medals or more from the Olympics. We came back with two, as opposed to the four already won at the Paralympic Games.
We have always blamed lack of infrastructure and funds as one of the main reasons for our failure in Olympics.
Then the question that arises naturally to our mind – what could be the reasons for the success of paralympic athletes. Their disabilities are heart wrenching and their background indicates difficult times. They did not have the infrastructure and the funds. Then how did they do it ?
“My handicap is my strength” – says Deepa Malik. Most of us hide behind our weaknesses and tend to stay in comfort zones. Recently while conducting a SWOT exercise in a workshop, I was told to not call a weakness – “weakness” .. Instead the HR team advised me to call weakness – “development areas”. It reminded me of the masks we put on – in order to feel good. These athletes have proven that its better to understand and face reality, be determined when faced with challenge and most importantly let go of our fears. Disability is in our mind, Ability is in our Action.
Knowing ourself, our weaknesses, facing them with a determination to win – are the signs of success. Hiding behind veils of excuses – a sure shot indicator of failure to come.
My next question in every assessment – would be ” when was the last time you failed and why?”
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