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Different lives, One Dream: Indian athletes eager to make mark in Asian Para Games


Press Trust of India New Delhi
One is a world record holder, the other an Arjuna Awardee, and the third a reality TV contestant. Sundar Gurjar, Sandeep Maan and Shatabdi Avasthi have faced thousand roadblocks but are eager to see the Indian flag flying at the Asian Para Games.
The Asian Para Games are slated to be held from October 6 to 13 in Jakarta, Indonesia.
A resident of Rajasthan, Shatabdi dreamed of joining the armed forces as a child, but life had different plans for her. In 2006, she met with an accident, which confined her to the wheelchair.
"I was never exposed to sports, it was always studies and then a job for me. I took a bank exam and got placed in State Bank of India," Shatabdi told PTI.
In 2012, she got through to the 'hot seat' of a popular Hindi reality show, Kaun Banega Karorepati (KBC). A quick venture into the field of social service followed before Shatabdi zeroed in on competing as a para-athlete.
"In 2012, I was selected in KBC, I won 50 lakhs. After that I started a bit of social service. The motive was that if I have a different life I have to make it successful somehow," she said.
"The thought of sports never occurred. I used to read about Sundar Gujjar in the newspaper. I got inspiration from him and then I met my coach, he encouraged me. I felt that my dream of doing something for my country can be fulfilled through sports."

Now, the 32-year-old cannot imagine a life without her beloved shot puts.
"Once I start playing I can't see anything else. I just dream about playing all the time be it while eating or sleeping. Whenever I look at the shot put I feel I'm in love with it. I can leave my life but not playing," Shatabdi, supported by Cairn, under Project Divyang, said.
Shatabdi has been competing in the javelin throw and short puts events for over two years, winning a couple of international medals in the process.
Shatabdi's inspiration Sundar's life took a different course. A world record holder in javelin throw, the Jaipur man always knew sports was his calling.
"I knew I wanted to go into sports since the very beginning. My father was a wrestler. I was never interested in studying I even failed in 10th class," the 22-year-old said coyly.
Sundar competed in the able-body category but in 2015, he switched to para-athletics (F-46 javelin throw and discus throw) after his left-arm was severed at the wrist in an accident.
The Rajasthan resident was one of the favourites to win the gold in javelin throw event at the 2016 Rio Paralympics. However, on the day of the event, due to a gross misunderstanding, Sundar missed his roll call and failed to reach the competition area, subsequent to which he was disqualified.
Asked if he is a sure shot contender for gold at the Asian Para Games, Sundar takes a moment to reply.
"I was a medal contender in Rio also, look what happened there. But let's see this time, preparation is good and I have faith in God. I just want to win for India."

Sundar has come a long way since his Paralympics debacle. Earlier this year, he broke the world record set by compatriot Devendra Jhajharia in 2016 Rio, and has had a rich medal haul in all the tournaments he has participated in, including winning gold at the World Para Athletic Grand Prix in Paris and Berlin.
For Arjuna Awardee Sandeep, the Para Asian Games is a competition not with other participants but with himself. The sprinter won two silver medals at the 2014 Incheon edition in 200m and 400m events and a silver in the Guangzhou Games in 2010.
"I have been in this game for about 15-16 years I am used to the pressure. Now I am also competing with myself. I have got a lot of silver, it's about time I get gold for the country," Sandeep said.
Sandeep competes in the 100m, 200m and 400m category. He suffered from a dysfunctional left arm by birth. Inclined to sport from an early age, he and used to compete in running events with able-bodied individuals.
Following his impressive performances, Sandeep stepped into para-sports and soon started representing India at the international level in T45/46/47 category.
"I was naturally good at running since my school days. I used to participate in sprint events. I saw Devendra Jhajaria's interview one day and then I met him. Since that day he has supported me," the 25-year-old said.
Asked what motivates him to continue after enjoying an illustrious career Sandeep says his idol, Devendra Jhajharia's achievements keep him going.
"My senior Devendra Jhajharia is my idol. I want to achieve whatever he has. I have already won the Arjuna award and Asian medals like him. Now he has a Khel Ratna and even I want that. Till I receive that, I won't stop.

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First Published: Sep 30 2018 | 3:15 PM IST

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