“I have been greatly moved by the kind of sportsman spirit Saina Nehwal has shown by giving me Rs2 lakh from her own pocket. Only a true sportsman can feel for another sportsperson.” Girisha Hosanagara Nagarajegowda, India’s lone medallist at the recent Paralympics Games in London, choked as he struggled to find words to express his gratitude to India’s badminton ace on his arrival at the Indira Gandhi International Airport on Tuesday.
Though the 24-year-old Girisha’s barefoot scissor leap of 1.74m matched that of gold medallist Iliesa Delana of Fiji, he had to settle for silver for taking more jumps. But reaching this far was not an easy task for the Bangalore-based differently-abled athlete as he received absolutely no support from the government or the corporate sector in the run up to the London Games.
“I just hope that the corporates will shower the same kind of cash rewards which they did on the six medal winners on their return. The government’s incentive — Rs30 lakh and a job offer in Sports Authority of India — has come as a big relief for me. It wasn’t easy to prepare for the Games without the corporate or government help,” said Girisha, son of a farmer in Hassan, Karnataka.
Girisha revealed that he was motivated by wrestler Sushil Kumar’s silver medal-winning performance in London just a few days before taking the flight for the Paralympics.
“Sushil is my role model. And when he won his second Olympics medal, a silver, I was determined to repeat the same feat,” Girisha said. “People should understand and recognise our efforts because it’s the same kind of training and effort that is required to win a medal at the Paralympic Games.”
Speaking about his future, Girisha said: “Right now, I want to continue with my training and want to win gold in the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016. And when I retire, I want to take up coaching to help athletes like me who hardly get any support in India.” Girisha is India’s third silver medallist ever in Paralympics.