Her recent win is a happy repeat of her maiden sporting competition — the National Para Athletics Championship in Panchkula
How does one go from playing absolutely zero sports as a child, to winning a gold medal at an international sporting event? Through hard work, disciplined training and the sheer will to do so. Para-athlete Ekta Bhyan who has just won two medals — gold and bronze — at the World Para Athletics Grand Prix in Tunisia would tell you so. Over the phone from Hisar, the 33-year-old star athlete from Haryana recounts her journey.
“I met with a road accident in 2003. It was a difficult time and I spent a month in the hospital,” she says. However, she lost the use of her lower limbs and became wheelchair-bound. Her confidence suffered a blow initially, but, “with unconditional love and support from my parents, I recovered.” She continued studying and getting her degrees; Bhyan holds a Masters in English and has made it through the Haryana Civil Services exam.
Her introduction to sports was by serendipity. “Once I cleared my civil services, I was interviewed by a newspaper; which reached Arjuna-awardee Paralympian Amit Kumar Saroha, who was soon to be my coach and mentor. Amit got in touch with me and asked me if I would be interested in taking up sports.”
Bhyan has been making India proud since 2016, when she clinched silver at the Para Athletics Grand Prix in Berlin — her first international sporting event. She was the only one from India to qualify for the 2017 IPC Para Athletics World Championships in London.
Her recent win is a happy repeat of her maiden sporting competition — the National Para Athletics Championship in Panchkula in March, 2016, where she won a gold medal in club throw and a bronze in discus throw. “Winning a medal in the first competition was a huge boost to my self-esteem,” she says. This was barely six months after she began training, in late 2015. Back then, she would work out for an hour daily. Bhyan qualifies for the S51 category, meaning she can take part in club and discuss throw events. So her training concentrated on building her upper body strength. “Over the course of these two years, I have increased my stamina. I now work out for three hours, five days a week,” says Bhyan.
An employment officer with the Haryana Government, Bhyan has to balance her work and sports.
A better wheelchair makes a world of difference. “I recently bought an Acti wheelchair. It has greater mobility, more reach, better balance. So your performance improves,” she says.
Saroha is with her at every step of the way. He is now teaching her how to swim. “We have swimming lessons once a week. It’s scary, swimming without any movement in the lower limbs… But it is great for upper body mobility,” says Bhyan, as she dives into fresh challenges. Coming up next is the Asian Para Games.
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