A fourth-place finish in Paralympics would be disheartening for many newcomers but not for Indian para javelin thrower Sandeep Chaudhary. It acted as a catalyst to give him the extra push in the years to come. Two years later, Chaudhary stood on the top of the podium with a world record effort, making it a dream debut at the Indonesia 2018 Asian Para Games.
The 22-year-old from Sonipat, Haryana clinched India’s first gold medal at Indonesia 2018 in men’s javelin men’s F42-44/61-64 category with a throw of 60.01m, which he managed in his third attempt. In the process, he also shattered the F44 world record, bettering the earlier mark of 59.82, which Chinese Mingjie Gao made in 1980. This was also India’s first ever gold in javelin F44 event.
“Rio 2016 was an unforgettable experience. I missed out on a medal by a slender margin. And it kept haunting me for a long time. When I returned to India from the Games I realised there is no difference between fourth and 40th place finish. I took the failure as a motivation and worked harder,” Chaudhary told the Asian Paralympic Committee after receiving a grand welcome in India as his family, friends and media gathered to receive him at home.
“This medal and moreover the world record are the result of my patience, hard work and focus of the past one year. It’s so special. I knew it was coming as when I finished 5th in 2017 World Championship, I felt may be God is planning something very special for me. It’s not silver or bronze, but the Gold.”
Asked how has life changed for the promising Indian star over the years? “Life is same but it feels nice to see people recognise you and your efforts. Personally, I have started believing in myself and my hard work. I have learnt to be patient and understand that the result of hard work is always beautiful,” he said.
Many people have contributed to Chaudhary’s journey including his family, long-time coach Nawal Singh, who is with him right from the beginning since he picked up javelin in 2014, and friends that include Commonwealth and Asian Games gold medallist javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra. Before settling on the javelin, Chaudhary dabbled in badminton and volleyball, even won medals in national level.
Friendship and Video Games
“Neeraj and I have been friends for a long time now. We have trained together in several camps and get along quite well. As we play the same sport, we also discuss our training and advice each other on our games. We even play the same video game Mini Militia on our phones,” he laughed.
The Gurugram-based athlete, whose mobility was affected since age 12 after a hip joint injury went untreated, said the one-and-half-month training in Finland’s Kuortane Olympic Centre did the trick for him as he could get his technique right in those few weeks there. “I have some good sessions, and even trained alongside Neeraj. As I am impaired on my hip, my coach had plans to slowly strengthen my hip and use it effectively in the release of javelin. We worked a lot on my technique and power, besides there was a lot of focus on my diet and recovery,” shared Chaudhary who is supported by the non-profit GoSports Foundation and is one of the beneficiaries of the Indian sports ministry’s Target Olympic Podium Scheme.
Chaudhary also believes in “superstition” and says that his personal javelin and favourite pair of jersey and track pants have been his lucky combinations. “I always use my personal javelin and wear my favourite blue jersey and grey pants during competitions. I feel so much comfortable and positive performing with them.
“Hope they bring me luck in the 2019 World Championships in Dubai as well, which is my next target. I want to better my own record there,” he signed off with high hopes.