Having won a gold medal at the World Para Athletics Championships in London - Sundar Singh Gurjar is pondering a simple question - whether to meet his family after the tournament gets over. It does not seem the hardest of decisions to make for Gurjar, who became the first Indian to win gold at the world championships, when he won the javelin F46 event on Friday. "I haven't gone home for three years now," the 21-year-old from Karauli in Rajasthan says over the phone from London.
But Gurjar's homesickness is overcome by another emotion -- regret. "Initially, I wanted to go home after the Rio Paralympics. I was really looking forward to it, but afterwards, I just didn't have the feeling of meeting anyone," he says. With a throw of 68.42m at the Indian national championships in 2016, Gurjar was the favourite for the gold at the Rio Games. In a stroke of horrible luck, he failed to hear the athletes roll call for his event and was disqualified without even throwing once. "I was so confident that I would win gold. When I was disqualified, main khatam sa ho gaya tha (I felt that I was finished). I felt if I died, it would have been better," he says.
While he didn't return home, he found it hard to train as well. "I wanted to leave the sport. I really didn't want to train. I didn't even want to go to the ground. When I went to the ground, that day in Rio would keep coming to my mind," he says.
At the end of three months of depression, it was only coach Mahaveer Saini's motivation that encouraged him to get back on the field. The results have come too. At the World Grand Prix in March this year, Gurjar won three gold medals - in discus, shot put as well as in the javelin throw. Even so, Gurjar says he finds it hard to stay motivated. "I had trained ahead of the world championships but I have not trained as hard as I did for the Olympics. I've never trained like that since then," he says.
Gurjar says he isn't entirely satisfied with his winning throw of 60.36m. "I knew I was going to win but I was hoping to do a personal best effort (He counts his effort in Panchkula in 2016 as his personal best, even though it came in a non recognized event). The performance I wanted to do, I couldn't do."
What the win will do however is motivate him further. "It is a big thing to be the first Indian to win gold at the world championships. It will motivate me for next years Asian Games and Commonwealth Games," he says. What it won't do he admits is heal the wound he has been carrying from Rio. "The sadness goes little by little with time but it won't ever go completely. Zindagi ka sabse bada jhatka hai. Use kaise bhul sakte hain? Maybe that shock can only end when I win gold at the Tokyo Paralympics," he says.
For the moment though, Gurjar has to focus on the World Championships. He has his shot put competition on July 18th and the discus throw event on July 22nd. And after that perhaps he will head home. "Whenever I speak to my parents, they are very emotional about this. But I have not decided yet. I feel I have to do a lot of things before I can. It's a fifty-fifty chance," he says.