Slippery conditions caused by heavy rains put paid to India's hopes of a gold medal in Men's High Jump T63 as Mariyappan Thangavelu and Sharad Kumar had to be satisfied with silver and bronze medals respectively at the Paralympic Games here on Tuesday.
Mariyappan, who won the gold medal in the same category in the Rio Paralympics in 2016 with a jump of 1.89, could manage only 1.86 as American Sam Grewe outjumped him by clearing 1.88 metres. Mariyappan tried to clear 1.88 but failed in three attempts.
Sharad managed 1.83 metres and bagged the bronze medal. The third Indian in the field, Varun Bhati, who won bronze in Rio Paralympics in 2016, finished sixth with a valid jump of 1.77m.
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Mariyappan, whose leg was crushed by a vehicle when he was on his way to school in his village in Salem district of Tamil Nadu, wears socks in the leg that has impairment. He has spikes on the other leg. Sharad too uses spikes only in one leg and both said that taking off for the jump was difficult in these conditions.
"The socks on my leg got soggy and it was impacting take-off for the jump. If there was no rain, I could have cleared 1.90 metres easily as I had started well and got into a good rhythm," Mariyappan said during a virtual press conference facilitated by the Paralympic Committee of India (PCI).
Coach Satyanarayana said Mariyappan has jumped 2.00 metres during training and could have done the same here but for the rain.
Mariyappan said the rain was a hindrance after they raised the bar to 1.80m or above.
"It was alright till 1.80m but once we tried to go higher, takeoff was very difficult," he added.
Sharad said balance was an issue for him because of the rain.
"Rain during the event was dangerous too as we have only one leg to balance on. We had spikes in only one leg whereas the American jumper had it on both his legs. I tried speaking to the officials but as the American was ready to go on, the event continued," said Sharad.
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Besides rain, Sharad had another problem, he had injured the meniscus in his knee on Monday night and for a long time was scared he may have to miss the event. Sharad had failed to win a medal at Rio Paralympics.
"It was very bad. Unfortunately, I landed on my meniscus and it got dislocated. I was very worried and talked to my parents and brother and they said to don't think about it and just jump. It is very easy to say go and jump but very difficult to actually do that," said Sharad, whose impairment is the result of the effects of polio, diagnosed at age two. The illness caused paralysis in his left leg.