The Paralympic Games are played immediately after the Olympic games and on the same lines, the only difference is that the players with disabilities take part in these games. It is a major multi-sport event organized by the International Paralympic Committee and various nations across the globe take part in it. It started from a trivial get-together of British World War II veterans in 1948 and it has grown to a huge level now.
Formally, the first Paralympic Games were held in the year 1960 in Rome but India only participated for the first time in 1968 Summer Paralympics held in Tel Aviv and then in 1972 in Heidelberg, but remained out of participation till 1984 games. India has never participated in the Winter Paralympic Games as yet.
India did not have to wait for getting its first ever gold medal in the Games as in 1972 at the Heidelberg Games, Murlikant Petkar swam the 50-meter freestyle in a world record time of 37.331 seconds to give India the first-ever Gold. In that edition, India finished 25th out of the 42 participating nations. After that, India did not participate in the 1976 and 1980 editions of the Games and came back in 1984 Games held in the USA.
In the comeback games in 1984, India’s medal tally was increased to 4 as compared to the 1972 Games and though, India did not win a gold medal, Indians bagged 2 silver and bronze medals each. Joginder Singh Bedi won the silver in men’s shot put along with winning a bronze each in the javelin throw and discus throw. Bhimrao Kesarkar won the silver in Javelin and taking the medal tally to 4. India ended up at 37th position out of the 53 nations, which participated in that year.
The 1988 Paralympic Games had two unique things. Firstly, it was the first time that the Paralympics are organised in the same city that organised the Olympics and secondly, the word ‘Paralympics’ was used officially for the first time in this year only. After the success of this edition, the International Paralympic Committee broadened its horizons and included the athletes into the governing body and now it includes 165 National Paralympic Committees with 4 disability-specific international sports federations.
Indians kept on participating in every Paralympic Games after 1984 but it only made an impact and won a Gold in 2004 Games held in Athens, when the Javelin thrower Devendra Jhajharia won Gold for India and the powerlifter Rajinder Singh Rahelu won bronze in the 56-kg category. That year India stood at the 53rd position out of all 136 Nations.
After this, India directly won a medal in 2012 Paralympics held in London. An Indian athlete, having a disability in left leg named H.N. Girisha won a Silver Medal for India in the men's high jump F-42 category. India stood at 67th rank and in total 164 Nations represented their respective countries from across the Globe.
The 2012 Summer Paralympics also brought some controversies with it. The allegations on the Paralympic Committee of India were made that their officials have used the Games Village permits, which were assigned to the Coaches and Escorts and therefore, the Coaches and Escorts were denied accommodation in the Games Village. Later, these allegations found substance when the General Secretary of the Paralympic Committee of India, Ratan Singh confirmed that he had brought his son, the Committee’s President brought his wife and the Treasurer brought his wife and daughter, due to which, the Coaches and Escorts did not have passes and they were used by the aforementioned officials to accommodate their families.
India participated in 2016 Rio De Janeiro Paralympic Games along with 159 other Nations. The introduction of two new games- Canoeing and the Para-triathlon, was one of the new things, that these games witnessed. India sent 19 players for representing India in 5 Sports. This was India’s largest-ever delegation in the history of Summer Paralympic Games. In this edition, India also registered its best ever performance with a medal tally of 4, which includes 2 Gold, a Silver and a Bronze each.
The silver medallist of 2004 Games, Devendra Jhajharia won a Gold this time in the Javelin Throw and broke the World Record. The other gold for India was won by Mariyappan Thangavelu in Men’ High Jump T42 and in the same sport, Varun Singh Bhati won the Bronze for India. The fourth medal for India was bagged by Deepa Malik in Women’s Shot Put in the F-53 category. She won the Silver medal for India and also became the First Indian Women to win a medal in Paralympic Games. With a medal tally of 4 India finished at 43rd rank out of 159 Participating Nations.
Since its inception, Paralympic Games have managed to gather a huge participation and India has always sent its delegation for the Games, except for 1976 and 1980 editions. With the increasing trend of Sports in India, we can expect more participation and more medals for India in the Paralympic Games in future, along with witnessing India’s participation even in Winter Paralympic Games for the first time ever.