The Tokyo Paralympics are drawing closer, and as the anticipation is building India’s largest ever contingent makes its way to Japan in the hopes of shining and showing off their talent on the grand stage. Among these is Ekta Bhyan, who will be making her debut appearance at the Paralympics, an emotion which cannot be described for her.
Ekta will be going to the Paralympics representing India in club throw, an event in which she has found tremendous success over the years. Her road to Tokyo has been 5 long years of hard work and dedication, which have finally paid off. Read ahead, as Ekta sits down for an interview with FirstSportz to tell us about her journey as an athlete.
Ekta told us a little bit about the sport that she will be participating in, which is the club throw. It is the only sport that is specially designed for Para athletes, which consists of a wooden plank of 400g. Club throw is only for those athletes who also face disability in their upper limbs as well. The objective of the sport is like any other throw event, where the athlete must throw the club as far as possible.
Exclusive Interview With Ekta Bhyan
The Tokyo Paralympics have been a journey for almost all athletes everywhere, and it is no different for Bhyan. The Paralympics getting postponed had a big impact on her life, as she had to continue to strive throughout the lockdown while battling the COVID-19 pandemic as well.
“The last 5 years have been very challenging, and we did not even know whether we would be selected or not. After lots of obstacles and challenges we are very happy that we are finally getting an opportunity to perform. We get to show our talent and all the hard work that we have put into training for the Paralympics,” said Ekta, as she gets ready to leave for Tokyo.
The last one and a half years have been especially challenging for her, since since her preparation faced a lot of hiccups. Being a person with a disability, she was also at high risk during the coronavirus pandemic, and she had to take extra care while training.
“From the past one and a half years we have had to adapt a lot. But we were determined, and accordingly I brought and set up all the equipment at home. The best and most important part was that I stuck to my timetable. I had to be well trained in these months, and I practiced once a day for six days a week. I am glad that my performance has been improving and I know I have reached the level whether I was performing at the Paralympics or not.”
Ekta reminisced about her start in the sport. She started as late as 11 years old, when she met with an accident in 2003. It was a gruesome accident, as she broke her neck, which left her with complete paralysis of the lower limbs, and partial paralysis of the upper limbs, becoming a wheelchair user.
She did not let this dampen her spirits however, as she willed on, an unstoppable inspiration as she picked up club throw for the first time. Ekta credits her family, who provided her will all the support she required in order to overcome any challenges that she may face. Ekta completed her bachelors and her masters and got her very first job.
“2013 was a major turning point for me, when I qualified in the Haryana civil services exam and I joined as an employment officer.” During this time Ekta also found her passion for the sport.
“In 2014 one of my interviews got published in the newspaper and that somehow reached to my coach Amit Saroha. He himself is a para athlete. He contacted me and asked me whether I would like to try the sport. So when I saw that he had the same disability as me, it inspired me and I thought of giving it a try. I won my first medal in Berlin 2016 and there was no looking back after that.”
2018- The Golden Year for Ekta Bhyan in her Journey Towards the Tokyo Paralympics
2018 was the golden year for Ekta, as she took home the gold medal at the National Para Athletics Championships, the Asian Para Games and the IPC Grand Prix all in one year.
“That year was very influential for me, and from there I started planning and preparing for the Paralympics. In 2018 my story was also shared by our Prime Minister on his show ‘Mann ki Baat’. That was not only motivating for me but also for para athletes all over the country.”
Speaking about the recently concluded Tokyo Olympics, which have been historical for India in more ways than one, Ekta says that it has really provided inspiration for the Paralympic team to also perform to their greatest potential.
“The Tokyo Olympics have truly been historical for India. They have also helped in changing the face of para sports in the country. We are also now receiving media attention and coverage, which is very important in order to promote para sports. In the Olympics we have a new medal record, and for sure I think we will be breaking the medal record for the Paralympics as well, we will atleast double digits in medals.”
Ekta’s training has been going well, as she said that all para athletes also receive the same facilities as able bodied athletes. Coming from Haryana, she along with all other athletes have been given a preparation amount of Rs. 5 lakh. The Sports Authority of India has been organising camps for para athletes, to help facilitate their training, and athletes are now also a part of the TOPS program, which is a huge step forward for para athletes in India. Ekta is also sponsored by the Go Sports Foundation, who provide her with equipment and anything else she might require.
“We are glad that from the face of the government we are getting the same facilities and policies, but we are lacking a little bit in infrastructure. Every public place is not wheelchair accessible, which means that people have to be dependent on others. We need to get equal opportunities and be self dependent. Still many people are stuck at home, and we need to encourage them to come out and explore their full potential.”
Finally talking about her performance and expectations at the Tokyo Paralympics, Ekta said that she has worked very hard over the past 5 years. “I am very satisfied and happy with my performance. Not a single day has gone by where I have not thought about the Paralympics. We as a team are surely going to rock the Paralympics and make our nation proud. Hopefully I can get a medal for my country, and I will give it my all.”