With a powerful throw at the Rio Paralympics, 35-year-old Devendra Jhajharia bettered his own world record to win the gold medal in the men’s javelin F46 event on Tuesday, and set off celebrations in Rajasthan’s Shekhawati region.
Devendra, whose hand was amputated when he was eight, scored a 63.97 metre throw, improving upon his mark of 62.15 metres set at the 2004 Athens Paralympics. He is the first Indian to win two gold medals at the Paralympics.
The athlete’s father, Ram Singh and mother Jeevni Devi, said he had made them doubly proud with a second gold medal. The Rajasthan government announced a cash reward of Rs. 75 lakh.
The Rio win was viewed as it happened early on Wednesday by people in Devendra’s village, Jhajharion Ki Dhani in Churu district, as a live YouTube webcast. Youth celebrated the victory with firecrackers, and villagers gathered at Devendra’s house to congratulate his parents. The athlete, employed by the Sports Authority of India as a coach, was the flag-bearer for India at the Rio Paralympics. Churu district and Sadulpur tehsil, where his village is situated, 240 km from Jaipur, form part of Shekhawati region.
Devendra’s six-year-old daughter Jiya was the first to receive a phone call from him, said Arvind Jhajharia, his brother . “She was so excited, as she had called her father a day before and asked him to bring home the gold medal.”
“With so much sweets coming, it looks as if celebration time for Diwali has come a month ahead of the festival,” said Arvind.
Devendra is likely to return to India next week and will get an “unprecedented welcome” in Churu. The athlete lost his hand, Arvind said, after he accidentally came in contact with a high-voltage cable while climbing a tree in his village. He is the first Paralympian to receive the Padma Shri.