PRAVEEN Kumar never imagined being a Paralympic silver-medallist at 18 but being a driven athlete, the high-jumper left no stone unturned to get to this moment either even if it meant creating a makeshift practice area for himself when COVID-19 lockdowns caused closure of stadiums. Praveen, son of a poor farmer at a village near Jewar in Gautam Buddha Nagar district, clinched the silver medal in the men’s high jump T64/T44 event of the Paralympics by setting a new Asian record of 2.07m on Friday morning. The youngster had battled COVID-19 and also its effect on his training last year. Desperate to train for the Games here, Praveen had dug up a small pit near his house and filled it with soft mud to ensure he could carry on practising despite not having access to a landing mattress. He created the space to ensure that his knees did not take too much of a beating.
“My school life was mostly about sports. But at that time I did not know I will reach at this level one day. I was playing volleyball initially in school, but then slowly came to know of para athletics and took up high jump,” Praveen said during a virtual press conference organised by Eurosport and Paralympic Committee of India. “I came to know about Paralympics and how to take part in it after searching on google,” added the high jumper, whose congenital impairment affects the bones that connect his hip to his left leg.
Explaining how he came to rise to this level, Praveen said, “I took part in a district level competition where I met Ashok Saini sir who gave me phone number of Satyapal sir (his current coach). “I contacted (Satyapal) sir and then he found out in which classification I will compete. He identified me and said he will take me in. This was 2018,” said Praveen who is a B.A. second year student in the Motilal Nehru College in Delhi. Praveen, who is in his second year in the international circuit, said fellow students and teachers of his school wondered how he will do well in his sport given his impairment but they later began supporting him.