By Pooja Bhattacharjee
The Paralympic Games, governed by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) concluded on 5th September. Tokyo 2020 was the biggest Paralympic Games ever with a record number of athletes. In this edition, female participation was at an all-time high. In total 1,853 female athletes competed at Tokyo 2020 beating the previous record of 1,671 women that competed at Rio 2016 – this is a 10.9 per cent increase.
India won 19 medals at the Games, including five gold and was placed 24th in the overall tally – the highest ever for the country. Out of the total medal tally, 3 medals were won by women, which contributed to India’s historic win at the Tokyo Paralympics.
In shooting, 19 year old Avani Lekhara made history by becoming the first Indian to win a gold medal in shooting at the Paralympics and the first Indian woman to win a Paralympic gold medal. Ms. Avani also clinched the bronze medal in the women’s 50m rifle 3 positions SH1 category at Tokyo and became the first Indian woman to win two medals at the Paralympics. Ms. Bhavina Patel won a silver medal in Class 4 Table tennis at the 2020 Summer Paralympics in Tokyo.
With setting new records and reaching new heights, Paralympians showed their grit & determination like no one else. Athletes from all over the world competed and at the end of the day, they came together with their shared emotions knowing that after all these years, there is no stopping them now.
Internationally too, women made history with their performances. Cuba’s Omara Durand Elias won a gold medal in the Women’s 400m T12 by finishing in 23.02 seconds. Ambra Sabatini of Italy smashed the world 100m T63 record to lead an Italian clean sweep. Martina Caironi and Monica Graziana Contrafatto of Italy won the silver & bronze medal respectively.
China’s Liu Cuiqing won the women’s T11 200m final by just four thousandths of a second, in a photo finish with Ms. Thalita Vitoria Simplicio da Silva of Brazil. Both athletes crossed the line in 24.94 seconds with the Chinese sprinter claiming the gold.
Ms. Jerusa Geber dos Santos of Brazil took the bronze medal in Women’s 200m T11. Lisbeli Marina Vera Andrade of Venezuela was the gold medallist in the women’s T47 200m in a time of 24.52 seconds, seventh hundredths slower than the fastest time ever. Lamiya Valiyeva of Azerbaijan took the gold medal in the women’s T13 400m in a new Paralympic record of 55.00 seconds. Nigeria’s Flora Ugwunwa won her second successive gold in the women’s F54 javelin, throwing a best of 19.39m. Ms. Nurkhon Kurbanova of Uzbekistan added a silver to her bronze medal in the women’s F54 shotput.
Finally, Ms. Mi Na is the new Paralympic champion in the women’s F38 discus throw with a world record throw of 38.50m. Ms. Li Yingli, who won the silver on her second-best throw as she and Mexican Rosa Carolina Castro both threw a best of 33.73m.
Even though this edition of Paralympics was exceptional because of the triumphs and the participation, more inclusion is necessary. The Tokyo Olympics saw participation of 196 countries compared to the Tokyo Paralympics, in which 162 nations had participated. This gap can be filled through building more infrastructure for people with disabilities and by the authorities making sure that no one is left behind in the process of winning more medals for their nations.