Praveen Kumar had a personal best of 2.05 metres in Men's High Jump T64. So, when the 18-year-old World No. 3 from New Delhi missed his first attempt at 2.01 metres at the Tokyo Paralympic Games, there were some concerns in the Indian camp.
But those fears proved unfounded as Kumar went on to clear 2.07 to win a silver medal, bagging India's 11th medal in the Tokyo Paralympic Games -- 2 gold, six silver, and three bronze.
Kumar was engaged in a raging battle with Great Britain's Jonathan Broom-Edwards and Poland's Maciel Lepiato from 1.97 to 2.04 metres. Lepiato failed to clear 2.07 in three attempts and was left behind. Kumar and Broom-Edwards further raised the bar, going neck-and-neck from 2.04 to 2.10.
Broom-Edwards cleared 2.10 in his second attempt but Kumar, the youngest in the field that had Toru Suzuki at 41 the oldest, failed in all three of his attempts, thus ending with a 2.07 metres jump, his personal best and an Asian record.
Broom-Edwards took the gold medal with 2.10. Poland's Maciel Lepiato took bronze at 2.04 metres.
This is Praveen Kumar's first medal in his maiden Paralympic Games. The 18-year-old born in Kotla Mubarakpur in New Delhi, had won a silver medal in Men's High Jump T44 in World Para Athletics Junior Championship-2019 at Nottwil, Switzerland, and a gold medal with Asian record in World Para Athletics FAZZA Grand Prix 2021, Dubai.
But interestingly, Praveen Kumar, whose one leg was short since birth and thus his impairment affects the bones that connect his hip to his left leg, had no idea about para-sports or high jump till a few years back. Interested in volleyball for years, he once participated in a high jump competition for able-bodied and fell in love with athletics -- particularly high jump.
Training in para-sports
It was around this time that he came to know that there are sports for the handicapped too and decided to participate in para-sports. Someone told him about para athletics coach, Dr. Satyapal Singh, and he went to the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, New Delhi, with his father and met the coach who changed his life. Dr. Satyapal Singh motivated him a lot to do para-sports and started training him.
His hard work and perseverance for the last few years paid dividends as Kumar claimed the silver medal in Tokyo, establishing himself as a medal contender in the next few editions.