Indians on Friday just couldn’t get enough of their champions returning from the Paralympics, as they jostled at the Delhi airport to get close to javelin throw gold medallist Sumit Antil, three-time medallist javelin thrower Devendra Jhajharia, who won a silver this year, discus throw silver-medallist Yogesh Kathuniya and Sharad Kumar, who won bronze in high jump.
The four Indian para-athletes were given a rousing welcome by the media and fans at the Indira Gandhi International Airport amid chaotic scenes, where crowds thronged disregarding COVID protocols to see the winners. They were given a warm reception by Sports Authority of India (SAI) officials, who garlanded them and presented bouquets and balloons on their arrival. Silver medallist high jumper Mariyappan Thangavelu, 26, was also feted.
“Our Champions are back home and is overjoyed at their arrival. Love & wishes are pouring in for @sumit_javelin @DevJhajharia @YogeshKathuniya @sharad_kumar01,” the SAI tweeted.
The four athletes posed for photos displaying their medals inside the airport, amid fans applauding them, waving the Indian flag, playing drums and even chanting “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”.
“Don’t be surprised to see me at Paris 2024 taking part in both Olympics and Paralympics. That’s my dream,” Sumit Antil, 23, who once dreamt of joining the Indian Army, has said.
Sumit had broken his world record five times for the F64 class gold, while Jhajharia cemented his status of being India’s best para-athlete with a F46 category silver. Kathuniya won a discus throw silver in F56 class, while Sharad claimed a T42 high jump bronze.
On Friday, India’s medals tally at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics rose to 13 as Harvinder Singh won a bronze to become the first Indian to win a medal in archery. The Tokyo 2020 Paralympics have been the best for India so far, with its medals tally touching double digits.