People who are impaired in some way or another have always been a part of the forward march humans have made on this planet since time unrecallable. People like Beethoven, Hellen Keller, and Stephen Hawkings have been known throughout age and time for their talent and contributions regardless of their impairment. Many others have followed similar paths and earned a name for themselves for various activities.
The Rio Paralympics is a major international multi-sport event for athletes with disabilities, for people who have a great passion for sports. Deepa Malik, a 47-year-old paraplegic has scripted her name in the history as the first Indian woman to win a silver medal for shot put in the Rio Paralympics, 2016.
Options: Death or paralysis
Deepa was born on September 30, 1970. Fifteen years earlier, due to surgeries for the removal of a tumor, she was rendered paralyzed from below the waist. As a 26-year-old, Deepa was asked to choose between paralysis and death. For a budding sportswoman, accepting paralysis was difficult but Deepa chose her life and decided to fight against all the odds.
“It was pretty depressing in the beginning. It made me look at life from a new window. I learned everything all over again, right from turning into a bed to sit, from having a bath to changing clothes,” says Deepa to a website.
Initially, people thought that her life outside would be very difficult and she would require a nurse at all times. But they were taken aback by her decision.
Participating in the Paralympics
Deepa wanted to prove everyone wrong. She wanted to excel at athletics. With the support of her husband, a veteran cavalier Col Bikram Singh, and her two daughters, Ambika and Devika, she set out to achieve her goals. “When I interacted with people like myself, I realized they all felt a lack of direction. Most people think that life is restricted due to paralysis. For women, it is worse!”
Her coach Vaibhav Sirohi, she says, has been a great help to prepare for the Games as he has been keeping track of her physical conditions and training her for strength.
“I wanted to leave a mark and not just come here to compete and go back home”, she says, as she claims that a mere participation will not satisfy her. She wanted to win.
She received funding from Sports Authority of India and GoSports Foundation to make the trip to the US and participate in the Paralympics. She also received funds from Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) to prepare for her journey and the training she received at Siri Fort in Delhi.
Suggestions for training abroad were presented to her but she declined. To her, the place she was comfortable, that is in India, she would practice and train herself.
“You don’t always need to go abroad to train to achieve something great. What is important is to plan your preparations the right way, and I think my performance in Rio proved that”, she says.
Hard work paid off
Her patience and hard work finally paid off when in the Rio Paralympics she won her silver medal for the F-53 category shot put competition. This was not enough though, she went on to participate and win a gold medal for javelin throw in the Para Athletic Grand Prix, which was held in Dubai in 2018.
Deepa has won 58 national and 18 international medals across various disciplines. She ranks number one in the F-53 category currently.
Love for biking
Apart from athletics, Deepa takes a deep interest in biking. She has been a biker and after the surgery she fought for over 19 months in Maharashtra to get an invalid rally vehicle license. She was the first person to get that.
She associates herself with the Himalayan Motorsports Association (HMA) and Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India (FMSCI). She participated in an event called Raid De Himalaya, which was an 8-day 1700-kms long drive through sub-zero temperatures and climbs scaling insanely high. The journey went through very difficult paths through remote areas of Himalayas, Leh, Shimla and Jammu.
Deepa is one strong women who has made us believe that everything is possible if you channel your energy in the right direction. Her hard work and the spirit to chase her dreams has made her an inspiration for so many people out there who are trying to conquer the challenges on their way.
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