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Granted that India's participation in the games is limited to a mere five individuals and none of them have won medals in their respective categories, but surely the Paralympics are events where at the risk of sounding clichÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©d - all participants are winners.
Barring a mention or two of the grand opening ceremony on 6th September, this event featuring more than 4000 heroes from 148 countries across the globe has completely slipped under the radar of all the media puppet-masters.
In a 'better late than never' attempt to do justice to the Indian contingent, here is a brief history of India's past performance at the games and how the current lot fared.
India has a rich history of success at the Paralympic Games including two individual golds, a couple of silvers and three bronze medals.
In 1972 at the Heidelberg Games Paralympian Petkar swam the 50 meter freestyle in a world record time of 37.331 seconds to give India her first ever Gold (36 years before the Bindra effect!). India finished 25th out of the 42 participating nations.
In '84 superstar Joginder Singh Bedi won silver at the Men's Shot Put and followed it up with a pair of bronze winning performances in the Discus and Javelin throws. Another Indian, Bhimrao Kesarhar won the Silver medal in the Javelin. India performed well overall finishing a creditable 37th out of the 54 participating nations.
India continued to participate in each Paralympics thereafter, but failed to make an impact till the 2004 games in Athens when Devendra another Javelin thrower won Gold and Rajinder Singh part of our 2008 team won bronze for powerlifting in the 56-kg category. India finished 53rd out of the 136 nation field that now graced this event truly making it a global phenomena.
The Indian contingent for the Paralympics includes current Arjuna awardee Farman Basha & Rajinder Singh (power-lifters), Markanda Reddy & Jagseer Singh (athletics) and Naresh Sharma (shooting).
Basha, participating in the 48-kg category narrowly missed out on a medal after lifting an amazing 155kgs to Eay Simay (Bronze medalist) who lifted 157.5kgs. Gold Medalist 41-yr old Ruel Ishaku of Nigeria set a new world record by lifting a mammoth 169kgs.
Rajinder Singh, bronze medalist in the 56-kg category from Athens was now participating in the 60-kg category. He too finished joint 4th lifting 170kg in his first lift, but failed to make his next two attempts count scratching at 175kgs on both attempts. To be fair to Singh, the top 3 were in a league of their own as each lifted in excess of 195kgs.
Markanda Reddy participating in the Men's 100meters finished 5th in his heat and failed to make the finals of the event. Markanda clocked 11.92 in the event and will be a tad disappointed he couldn't post a better time.
Jagseer Singh improved steadily with each of his attempts, recording a 6.4m leap in his 5th attempt to finish 7th overall in the Long Jump event. Though he finished a fair way back, the distance between him and the winners was eventually barely a few centimeters with David Roos the silver medalist jumping 6.64m and Kangyong Li of China the bronze medalist leaping 6.61m.
Naresh Sharma participated in two shooting events at the games. Though he finished a disappointing 26th in the Men's 50m Free Rifle - scoring 384 in the prone position, 342 while standing and 362 while kneeling - he did considerably better in the 50m free rifle prone event qualifying for the finals by shooting a creditable 587. He however did not have the magic touch in the finals shooting a 101.2 to give him a total score of 688.2 and 5th place overall. Naresh was in 2nd place early in the qualifying rounds and a 95 in his 4th shot in the qualifiers cost him dearly as he finished a mere 1.1 behind bronze medalist Chao Dong of China.
Inspite of not winning a medal the Indian team did put up a more than creditable performance and will surely look to improve before the London Games in 2012.
One hopes that we as a nation too give a lot more support to the differently-abled. With hardly any basic civic amenities, leave alone sporting facilities prevalent in India, it does seem like decades could pass before we see our country humanize itself.
To know more about the Paralympics movement please visit www.paralympicindia.org