Paris 23: Yogesh Kathuniya supports new talent after life-changing Paralympic debut

Indian discus thrower Kathuniya claimed the silver medal in the men’s discus throw F56 event at Tokyo 2020. 15 Jul 2023
Yogesh Kathuniya smiling and holding up a Paralympic silver medal
Yogesh Kathuniya says his silver medal at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics is helping him to support other athletes
ⒸAlex Davidson/Getty Images
By Ayano Shimizu | The IPC

Yogesh Kathuniya says competing at his first Paralympic Games two years ago changed his life. It gave him the platform to share his experience and journey to more people, but it also helped him support up-and-coming athletes in India. 

“More people give me attention and more people know about my journey, my hard work,” the 26-year-old athlete said.  

“Just hearing the word Paralympics, I get goosebumps. It was an amazing experience. It was my first Paralympics and I loved it.” 

Kathuniya competed in the men’s discus throw F56 event at Tokyo 2020, capturing the silver medal behind Brazil’s Claudiney Batista dos Santos. At the Paris 23 Para Athletics World Championships on 12 July, he again took silver behind the Brazilian to add a world medal to his Paralympic success.

Sharing the passion for sport 

Kathuniya, who developed a rare neurological condition called Guillain-Barre syndrome when he was nine years old, took up Para sports in 2017 when he was at college. While he tried several disciplines, he fell in love with discus throwing immediately. 

“I love discus so much because it’s so different from other sports,” he said. “I love throwing. I like it when the discus goes far and guys in throwing (sports) are so big and they have strength. I also wanted that strength and roar like a lion.” 

At Tokyo 2020, he threw 44.38m to capture one of India’s 19 medals at the Paralympic Games. After the Games, he quickly turned to support other up-and-coming talent as he also pursues his dream of topping the podium at Paris 2024

Kathuniya (l) wants to help other Indian Para athletes reach the Paralympic podium as he did at Tokyo 2020 ⒸAlex Davidson/Getty Images

“I had one mission. It was to open my own academy called Yogesh Throwing Academy for athletes and Para athletes,” he said. “It was my dream and now it has been one and a half years since we opened it. 

According to Kathuniya, there are around 50 athletes from different states in India at his academy, including eight Para athletes. Pushpendra Singh, who competed in javelin throw at the Paris 23 Worlds, is one of them.

The reason why he is supporting young talent is simple, he says.  

“It’s because I don’t want new athletes to face the (financial) difficulties that I have faced as an athlete,” Kathuniya said, adding that he does not charge anything from Para athletes to take part in his academy. 

“They can overcome these difficulties. I’ve told them to just do your work and don’t be disappointed afterwards. Just focus on your goals.” 

He has sponsors helping out with the academy, which includes an indoor gym with weights so athletes can train. The athletes currently participating in his academy are under the age of 25, he said.  

He trains with other athletes, which also inspires him to become better.  

“It gives me so much motivation,” the Paralympian said. “My goal is to make the academy big, just like a stadium. I want athletes from different countries to visit. If athletes don’t have financial support, I will help them.” 

Family support 

With just over a year until the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games, Kathuniya is looking forward to putting a show in the French capital and make his family proud.  

 “When my mother came to know about (my) disease, she cried and my family was lost. Everyone was in depression because I wasn't able to walk, run and everything I could do when I was nine years old,” he said. 

His mother studied and became a physiotherapist. She helped him do different exercises every day to help with his blood circulation.  

“It took me four years to walk. I was in a wheelchair for four years and I started to walk. Not so much, but slowly.” 

His mother is also his biggest supporter. While she does not travel abroad, they speak regularly while he is competing abroad, and she always shares her excitement. 

“My mother told me, ‘You got bronze medal in Dubai at the World Championships (in 2019), now you got silver (in Paris) and at the Paralympics. So now you will get gold,” Kathuniya said.  

“I will come again to Paris (next year) and I’ll try for gold.” 

Follow the action from Paris 23 via the Paralympics YouTube and Facebook, plus live results on the World Para Athletics website.