India have sent one of the largest athletics teams to the Asian Para Games which start on Saturday (6 October) including the country’s four medallists from the last Paralympic Games.
Deepa Malik made history at Rio 2016 when she became the first Indian woman to win a Paralympic medal, clinching silver in the shot put F53.
The 48-year-old will compete in the javelin F53/54 and discus F51/52/53 in Indonesia and after winning a bronze and a silver at the last two editions of the Asian Para Games, she is aiming for the top of the podium this time.
“I hope I can raise my bar and I can get a gold this time, but the competition is very tough. In my own class I know I am the best but in the mixed class that’s where the challenge lies,” said Malik, who only began throwing the discus this year after the event was included in the Tokyo 2020 programme.
Mariyappan Thangavelu was one of the stars of Rio 2016 after winning gold in the men’s high jump T42 with an Asian record of 1.89m – India’s first Paralympic gold medal since 2004.
The 23-year-old, who suffered permanent damage to his right leg when he was run over by a truck as a young boy, only started competing internationally in 2015 so this will be his first Asian Para Games.
While Mariyappan has a Paralympic gold medal to his name, competition in the men’s high jump T63 in Jakarta won’t be easy.
His teammates Sharad Kumar and Varun Singh Bhati won high jump T42 silver and bronze respectively behind USA’s Sam Grewe at last year’s World Championships – an event Mariyappan did not attend – and the pair currently sit ahead of their teammate in the Asian rankings.
Kumar, 26, is the defending Asian Para Games champion while 23-year-old Bhati, who finished fifth four years ago, won bronze behind Mariyappan at the Rio Games.
Another event in which India could well dominate is the men’s javelin F46.
Paralympic champion Devendra Jhajharia, 37, smashed the previous world record on his way to gold at the Rio Games, throwing a massive 63.97m.
But it is his teammate, the reigning world champion Sundar Singh Gurjar, who currently sits top of the world rankings.
Gurjar, who lost his left hand in an accident three years ago, failed to throw at the Rio Games after missing the start time for his event but he looks to have recovered from the terrible heartache that brought him, adding to his world title with a huge throw of 64.11m this year (not yet ratified as a world record).
Whatever the outcome, the battle between India’s top two javelin throwers could be one of the most exciting events to follow at Indonesia 2018.