Sharad Kumar knows what it’s like to deal with the highs and lows of life. From being diagnosed with polio myelitis at the age of two which left him with asymmetric paralysis in one leg, to excelling in sports during his school years, he learnt how to deal with it all at a very young age. He was on a high after winning the high-jump title in Malaysian Open Para-Athletics Championship and had his eyes set on being a part of the 2012 London Olympics, but an unfortunate ban because of allegations of doping forced him out of competition for two years.
A graduate in Political Science from Kirori Mal College, University of Delhi, he went on to pursue a masters in International Relations from Jawaharlal Nehru University.
Sharad returned with a bang in the 2014 Para Asian Games at Incheon, winning the gold medal in high jump and also breaking a 12-year Asian Games record.
All set for the World Championship next month in Doha, Qatar, he talks to DU Beat about the importance of sports in his life, and his goals:
Q- Disabilities are hard to deal with, especially for a child. How did you deal with getting affected by it at such a young age? How much do you think being involved in sports helped you in this?
Ans: At a personal level, dealing with disabilities is not tough, but it is tough to deal with people who think of people with disabilities like they belong to a different category. Luckily, I was in an amazing boarding school where everyone was treated equally, and that made me do the same things that other kids did. I think sports activities are the best kind of therapy for any problem, not just disabilities.
2. What drove your interest in sports and motivated you to pursue high-jumping?
Ans: My brother was an amazing athlete. We studied in St. Paul’s School in Darjeeling where he was popular for being good at sports. He was an outstanding high jumper. His popularity compelled me to take up sports too. I got to know about Para-sports from my favourite teacher Mr. Dennis who had taught me right from my primary classes. He told me that I would do wonders in Paralympics after I broke my brother’s high jump record in inter school meets.
I was not allowed to take part in athletic events at the beginning because being new to the school and having a disability, but I still used to stand near the high jump arena and watch. I loved high jumping from the very beginning, from the first time I saw the event.
3. How was the experience of representing India and winning the gold medal at the 2014 Para Asian Games held at Incheon after 2 years away from
Ans: I very much needed this experience. The medal is getting me support from the government too. It feels like being wronged to anyone who is ignored and misjudged but I knew I would triumph, if given the chance. I am still living on the success of the Asian Gold medal, but my next target is the World Championship in Qatar next month.
4. You are going to represent India at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games. Would you consider winning a gold medal there your ultimate achievement?
Ans: Winning the Paralympic Gold medal is my only dream now.
5. Based on your experience, what do you think is lacking in the way Para-sports are treated in India? What all improvements do you think are necessary for more of our Para-athletes to be able to compete internationally?
Ans: Things were terrible 6 years back, but now Para-sport in India is gaining momentum. I think the future is bright for Para-athletes and their mistreatment will soon stop. The government has done a tremendous job by making Paralympic medals equal to that of Olympic medals, which will surely benefit Para-athletes.