Hindustan Times (Lucknow)

On a ‘record-breaking’ spree, Sunder looks forward to Rio

Braving odds, para-athlete surpasses world record in national meet, eyes podium in Olympics

- Saurabh Duggal

Para-athlete Sunder Singh Gujjar has braved odds with a smile. Be it footing the bill for the Fazza IPC Para-Athletics Championsh­ip in Dubai — the Rio Paralympic Games qualificat­ion event held recently — or battling the sports ministry’s apathy.

The javelin thrower has not just clinched the Rio Olympic berth along with Virender Singh (discus and shot put), on Tuesday Sundar showed how determined he was to clinch a Rio medal when the 20-yearold, hailing f rom Rajasthan, created a national record with a throw of 68.42m — six metres more than the world record — during the 16th Para-athletics National Championsh­ip in Panchkula.

The record throw in Panchkula, though, will not be ratified as the event is not recognised by the world body.

Sunder and Virender were part of the 24-member contingent which was refused entry by the Fazza IPC Para Athletics Championsh­ip organisers in Dubai as the Sports Authority of India had failed to forward their entries in time. After uncertaint­y, 11 athletes could compete, while the rest returned home despite spending R80,000 each from their pockets as the ministry refused to foot the bill for the trip.

Sunder and Virender’s performanc­e in Dubai earned them the third position in world ranking. The top five in the world till April 30 will get direct quotas to Rio while the remaining berths will be divided among nations on the basis of athletes who have earned ‘A’ and ‘B’ qualificat­ion marks. The duo is among the favourites to win medals at the Games.

“If all goes well, you will see Sunder winning an Olympic medal,” said Dronachary­a awardee RD Singh, who runs a training centre at Hanumangar­h in Rajasthan. “His throw today was excellent and he can easily add a couple of meters by the time of Rio,” he added.

Till November last, Sunder was competing in the general category and won a junior national gold. But he lost his left hand in an accident. “I thought it was the end of my sporting career. Then I met RD Singh and within a month I was back training,” said Sunder. “My family couldn’t afford my trip to Dubai so I took money from the coach. I hope the ministry will now help me financiall­y to compete in a couple of internatio­nal events before Rio,” he added.

Armyman Virender, 32, was a top kabaddi player but an accident in 2004 took away his right leg. At the insistence of Haryana sports department coach Amarjeet Singh, he took up para-athletics (throw events) in 2014. Speaking about SAI’s apathy before the Dubai event, he said, “This is bad on the part of the government...it is high time they took para-sports seriously,” said Virender.

 ?? SANJEEV SHARMA/HT ?? Sunder Singh Gujjar (above), Virender Singh (left).
SANJEEV SHARMA/HT Sunder Singh Gujjar (above), Virender Singh (left).
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