Jewar boy who honed high jump skills on sand patch wins Asian Para gold

  • | Friday | 27th October, 2023

NOIDA: Praveen Kumar, his coach says, is "unique". The 20-year-old from Jewar is five feet and four inches tall and has a limb deformity, both reasons that make it particularly difficult for anyone to take up any sport, least of all high jump. On Monday, Praveen won gold for India in high jump at the ongoing Asian Para Games in Hangzhou, China.He clinched the top position with a jump of 2.02 metres, a performance that the youngster still isnt satisfied with."I had a target of 2.05 metres. ... I won the gold, so its still an achievement, but I could have done better," he tells TOI over a call. Asked what inspired him to take up high jump, Kumar says he always wanted a career in sports. "My teachers in schweeool would tell me it was of no use because of my disability, but that hurt my self-esteem and eventually, I took it as a challenge," he says. It was in 2019 that Kumar first took to high jump and participated in the World Parathletic Junior Championship in Switzerland. "At the time, I was preparing for the T42 category, in which the world record was a jump of 1.9m. But my category was changed to T44, for which it was 2.19m. I was convinced that I wouldnt be able to do it and I thought of leaving sports forever, but my coach kept motivating me and I took a chance," he says. Kumar won a silver with a jump of 1.75m in the competition. He was riding on this confidence when the pandemic struck in March 2020, and in-person training sessions came to an abrupt halt as a lockdown was imposed. Instead of four-hour sessions daily at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, he found himself - like most others -- confined to his home and neighbourhood. Coach Satyapal Singh admits it was tough, but Kumars "will power inspired me". They decided on holding training sessions over video calls. But even then, there wasnt any training arena for high jump in rural Jewar. "I called his father, a farmer, and told him to make a patch of sand and mud for Praveen to practice on in his village Govindgarh Jewar," Singh says.It worked. "Now that he has won the gold, its a special moment for all of us," the coach adds.

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