India's Praveen Kumar won the silver medal in the men's high jump T64 event at the Tokyo Paralympics on Friday.
Praveen, 18, managed a best jump of 2.07m to win silver, while Great Britain's Jonathan Broom-Edwards, who won silver at the 2016 Rio Games, won gold with a best jump of 2.10m. Poland's Maciej Lepiato won bronze with a best effort of 2.04m.
Praveen's medal takes India's medal count at the Tokyo Paralympics to 11 -- two gold, five bronze and four silver. Eight of those 11 medals have come from athletics, including Sumit Antil's gold in the men's javelin throw F64. It is by far India's best tally at a single edition of the Para Games after four at Rio 2016 and four at the 1984 Paralympics in Stoke Mandeville/New York.
"I can't explain how I feel. This jump was ecstatic. This is my first Paralympic Games and I am waiting to see what lies ahead," he said after the final.
"My confidence was boosted immensely after I jumped 2m. It was a little low before, but after I jumped over that 2m mark, it just skyrocketed," he said. "Now, I've done 2.07m, and that is a massive leap. I credit my coach with this feat," he added.
Praveen began the final by passing on the 1.83m mark and opting to go straight for 1.88m, which he cleared on his first attempt. He then passed again, this time on the 1.93 mark, and went for 1.97m, which he also cleared on his first attempt.
Expectedly, things got tougher for the entire field once the mark went above two metres. Praveen failed his first attempt at 2.01m but cleared it on the second try. He had no trouble with 2.04m, though, clearing the mark in his first jump. Praveen could not clear 2.07m in his first jump, but did so in his second attempt, creating a new Asian Record in the process.
Poland's Lepiato, meanwhile, had cleared 2.04m in his first attempt, but failed all three of his tries at jumping 2.07m, bringing an end to his hopes of winning the gold medal. A gold medal for Praveen looked likely when Broom-Edwards failed his first two tries at 2.07m, but the Briton cleared the mark in his third attempt to keep his hopes of winning gold alive.
The bar was then raised to 2.10m, which Broom-Edwards cleared in his second attempt for his season-best jump. Praveen, however, could not clear the mark, failing in all three of his attempts to win silver. Broom-Edwards opted not to try for the 2.13m mark.
Praveen has a congenital impairment which affects the bones that connect his hip to his left leg. He is therefore classified by the International Paralympic Committee in the T44 class, which is for athletes with a leg deficiency, leg length difference, impaired muscle power or impaired passive range of movement in the legs, with athletes competing in a standing position. At this edition of the Games, however, he has competed in the T64 category, which is typically for athletes with a leg amputation.
Earlier this year, Praveen won gold at the World Para Athletics GP with a leap of 2.05m, a new Asian record. The 18-year-old, who began competing in 2019, narrowly missed bronze at the 2019 Junior World Para Athletics Championships, but his fourth-place finish was enough for him to qualify for the Tokyo Paralympics.
(With PTI inputs)