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Tokyo Paralympics: I had suicidal thoughts but coach pulled me out: Sundar Singh Gurjar

By Pti

New Delhi, Sept 6: He battled not just loss of limb but also suicidal thoughts not too long ago and as javelin thrower Sundar Singh Gurjar celebrated his maiden Paralympic bronze, he couldn't help but be thankful to the people who drew him out of the abyss, especially his coach Mahavir Saini.

Till 2015, Sundar competed in able-bodied competitions and was even a part of the junior national camp featuring Tokyo Olympics gold-medallist Neeraj Chopra among others. But the 25-year-old's life changed drastically when a tin shed fell on him at his friend's house leading to the amputation of his left hand.

Sundar didn't lose hope though and with the unflinching support of his coach, he returned to the turf in the para athlete category. In a year's time, he qualified for the 2016 Rio Paralympics before fate once again played a cruel role and he was left shattered.

"...I fought back and qualified for 2016 Paralympics only to be disqualified. That time I started thinking everything is finished, there is nothing left for me," Sundar said in an interview to PTI.

"I thought of committing suicide but that time my coach (Mahavir Saini) realised something wrong is going on in my mind. For a month he kept me along with him 24x7, didn't leave me alone.

"As time passed, my thoughts started to change. I started thinking I will start playing again and answer back to the world."

It was a delay of 52 seconds in reaching the call room that led to his disqualification from Rio Games. "I was leading at the top in my event during 2016 Paralympics but I was just 52 seconds late in reaching the call room and I was disqualified. I was really heartbroken after that," said the F46 javelin throw bronze-medallist from Tokyo.

Sundar credits his coach Mahavir for single-handedly transforming his life and career. "I used to play sports since 2009. Initially I used to do shot put and I had a medal in shot put in nationals. I did shot put for one-and-half years and after that my coach Mahavir Saini told me if you have to shine in your career you have to leave shot put and start javelin," he said.

"He might have seen some talent in me and he started training me. From there till now, coach saab has supported me a lot."

Sundar also recalled his time training with Neeraj at the camp. "He was two years junior to me. I used to play Under-20 and he used to be in Under-18. We played a few competitions together at the youth level. In junior India camp me and Neeraj were together in SAI Sonepat camp in 2013-14. Then I suffered an accident in 2015 and came under para," he said.

"But our success will definitely inspire the younger generation in taking up the sport."

Sundar is now determined to better the colour of his medal. "I feel I still have some drawbacks. I won a medal in Paralympics but I am not satisfied because my target was to win the gold and I hope to do that in 2024 Paris Paralympics.

"My first focus would be on Para Asian Games and the World Championships next year but the final target is Paris," he said.

Sundar has been working as an officer in Rajasthan government's forest department along side compatriots Avani Lekhara and Devendra Jhajharia since November last year but he got his first salary just after winning the Paralympic medal.

"I have been working in forest department in Rajasthan since 5th November 2020. But the day I won the Paralympics medal, within two hours I got my first salary of 10 months," he rued.

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Story first published: Monday, September 6, 2021, 19:21 [IST]
Other articles published on Sep 6, 2021