Devendra Jhajharia became just the second Indian ever to win three medals at the Paralympics after Joginder Singh Bedi as he won silver in the men's F46 javelin throw event with a personal best effort of 64.35m. Two-time reigning world champion Sundar Singh Gurjar won bronze with a throw of 64.01m. Sri Lanka's Dinesh Herath won gold after shattering Jhajharia's world record with a throw of 67.79m. Ajeet Singh Yadav, the other Indian in the event who won bronze at the last World Championships, finished eighth with a throw of 56.15m.
Earlier, Yogesh Kathuniya improved on his bronze-winning effort from the last World Championships to win silver in the men's F56 discus throw event with a throw of 44.38m. He finished behind Brazil's Claudiney Batista dos Santos, who set a new Paralympic record with a throw of 45.59m. Cuba's Leonardo Diaz won bronze after a best throw of 43.36m.
Indian athletes have now won seven medals at these Games, including one gold, four silvers and two bronzes, which is easily their best effort at the Paralympics. Their previous best was four medals at the Rio Paralympics in 2016, when they won two golds, one silver and one bronze.
Easily one of the greatest athletes to have been produced by India, Jhajharia is a former world champion and was also the current world record holder entering the Paralympics. He's also the only Indian in history to win two gold medals at the Paralympics. Jhajharia's three medals are also the most ever in the men's F46 javelin throw event. Herath is tied-second with Joerg Schiedek and Dai Chen Wang, all of whom have two medals in this classification.
Jhajharia dedicated the medal to his father, who died of cancer last year. "Of course, this medal belongs to the people of the country but I also want to dedicate this to my late father who had wanted me to win another medal in the Paralympics," Jhajharia told PTI from Tokyo.
"I would not be here if it was not for my father's efforts. It was him who pushed me to train hard and win another medal. I am happy that today I have fulfilled his dream."
At 40, he continues to remain in sublime form, having broken the world record earlier this year at the selection trials.
When he was eight, Jhajharia's left arm had to be amputated up to the elbow after he accidentally touched a 11000 volt live cable. What makes Jhajharia's achievements even more creditable is the fact that both his previous golds at the Paralympics came after breaking the existing world record.
Jhajharia improved on his world record this time too but Herath threw further than him to win gold.
Kathuniya's sporting ambitions were very nearly shattered after he suffered a paralytic attack at the age of 8 years old which left him with impaired limb coordination. However, that didn't stop him from his sporting passions and he developed an interest in both the discus and javelin events. Last year, competing in his first international event, Kathuniya set a new world record of 45.18m to win gold at the Para-athletics Grand Prix in Berlin.
"That was amazing. Winning the silver has given me so much more motivation to get the gold medal at Paris 2024," Kathuniya said in the mixed zone.
Kathuniya said he had to train without a coach in the lead up to the Games.
"In the last 18 months the preparations have been very tough. In India there was a six month lockdown so every stadium was closed. When I could return to the stadium on a daily basis, I had to practice by myself. I couldn't have a coach then and I am still training without a coach. It was a great moment that I could win the silver medal without a coach," he added.
Having managed a season best effort in Tokyo, Kathuniya said that he would look to break the World record in Paris in 2024.
"I am going to work hard. I was just one metre away from the gold medal here, but in Paris I will want to break the world record. Today was not my day as I was fully prepared to break the world record here, but that was a barrier I just could not break."
Gurjar used to compete in the general category before he lost his left palm in a home accident in 2015. He then began competing in the para sports F46 category - in which athletes with arm deficiency, impaired muscle power or impaired passive range of movement in arms compete in a standing position.
In 2016, Gurjar made the 'A' qualification mark for the Rio Paralympics with a throw of 59.36m at the yearly FAZZA IPC Athletics Grand Prix in Dubai. With a national record throw of 68.42m at the Para Athletics National Championships, he was one the favourites in Rio. However, it all went wrong in his maiden Games after Gurjar, having failed to understand the announcer's accent, reached 52 seconds late for the start of the javelin throw event and was disqualified.
The incident took its toll on Gurjar, who said he entered a period of depression during which he didn't want to train and even contemplated quitting sport altogether. It was his coach Mahaveer Saini's encouragement that helped him regain the desire to compete.
Gurjar bounced back emphatically. At the 2017 season opener in Dubai, he won gold in all three of his events - javelin throw, discus throw and shot put. He went on to win the men's javelin throw F46 gold at the 2017 World Para Athletics Championships in London.
At the 2018 Asian Para Games, Gurjar won silver in the javelin throw and bronze in the discus throw. In 2019, he won his second Worlds gold in javelin, thereby confirming his place at the Tokyo Paralympics.
(With inputs from Jonathan Selvaraj and Manoj Bhagavatula)