Gurjar shakes off Rio trauma and hopes podium place in Tokyo

Sundar Singh Gurjar, centre, beat Dinesh Herath Mudiyanselage and Indian compatriot Ajeet Singh for javelin gold at Dubai 2019. Photograph: Luc Percival

I am now throwing beyond 68 metres says India’s Para javelin ace

By Jaswinder Sidhu
New Delhi, September 27, 2020

Sundar Singh Gurjar reached the call room 52 seconds late for the javelin event at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Event organisers disqualified him.
India’s top Para javelin thrower was in trauma. His four-year dream shattered in seconds because of slight tardiness. A devastated Gurjar slipped into depression.
He returned to India a distressed man. Gradually, a long journey to redemption began. He started to rebuild his shattered life. He took psychiatric counsel and turned to people who supported his rehabilitation. His coach and close friends rallied behind him, which was important to help him out of a dark period.
“That disqualification broke me mentally,” says Gurjar. “I did not want to touch javelin again, but my coach Mahabir Prasad Saini took me for counselling and arranged sessions with motivational speakers.”
Gurjar recovered gradually and regained confidence. Soon he returned to training and competition. After his recovery, he won gold at the 2017 World Para Athletics Championships.
“Whatever happened in Rio does haunt me,” Gurjar admits, shaking his head in disbelief. “I was in good touch and hoping for a podium finish.”
Gurjar went on to win a silver medal in the men’s F46 of the 2018 Asian Para Games in Indonesia. He was also impressive the same year at the World Para Athletics Championships in UAE, immediately after recovering from his shoulder injury. From being placed second until the fifth round, his sixth attempt saw him clear a distance of 61.22m for gold, and a berth at Tokyo 2020.
The 24-year-old is now waiting to fulfil his impending dream – to win that elusive medal at Tokyo next year.
Uninterrupted training
The COVID-19 pandemic postponed the Games in Tokyo, but Gurjar is determined to stay on course, despite the nationwide lockdown. The resident of Jaipur, Rajasthan, reached out to the Sports Minister of his state Ashok Chandna for permission to use the facilities during lockdown.
“I want to be at Tokyo in the best of my shape. I did not want to sit at home and wait for things to happen. I requested our minister and he allowed me to use the hostel. It was not easy because the entire country was in lockdown, but Mr Chandna helped me,” says Gurjar. He had lost his left palm following an accident in 2015 while placing a tin shade in his friends’ house.
The decision to continue his practice during lockdown helped him immensely.
“During this lockdown, my throw has improved,” he says. “I am now throwing beyond 68 metres. This is something that has boosted my confidence for the Tokyo Games as 63.97 metres is a world record, but I am not taking anything lightly.
“This is the best thing that has happened before Tokyo,” he continued. “True, I am disappointed because the Games have been postponed. Nevertheless, I am fully ready for it. I have worked hard to reach here and if I can win a medal in Tokyo 2020, it will be an ultimate achievement for me. I assure you, I shall give my best to win it for my country.”