After the Tokyo Olympics, the Indian contingent participating in the ongoing Paralympic Games is making waves. It’s a matter of great pride to qualify for the highly-awaited international sporting tournament, and India couldn’t have been more proud of its contingent—which includes 14 remarkable women athletes. These women para athletes are representing the country in a number of events throughout the Paralympics, which will conclude on September 5, 2021.
Win or lose, these women para athletes are bringing glory to the nation and proving that para athletes too have immense contributions to make for the country. Here’s everything you need to know about the 14 women athletes participating in the Paralympics:
Jyoti Baliyan, Archery: Hailing from a middle-class family in Muzaffarnagar, the 27-year-old began playing archery in the year 2009, and has since made a mark for herself by becoming one of the top para-archers in the world. In January 2021, Baliyan participated in the seventh Fazza Para Archery Tournament held in Dubai, following which she secured the 17th rank in the World Championship held in the Netherlands, subsequently qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
Simran Sharma, Athletics: Hailing from Delhi, Sharma cannot see beyond 10 metres, but managed to become the first Indian woman to qualify for the 100-metre track event in the Tokyo Paralympics. Sources close to the athlete say that she spends close to five hours every day at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium (JNS), training for the upcoming event. During the final trial for the Paralympic Games, which was held on June 30 at JNS, Sharma qualified for the event by crossing the finish line in 12 seconds. However, she maintains that her personal best has been 11.87 seconds.
Kashish Lakra, Athletics: The 18-year-old class XII student from Modern Public School, Shalimar Bagh, New Delhi, became the youngest to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics in the Women's Club Throw F51 category. As a young girl, Kashish Lakra loved sports and aspired to carve a niche for herself in the field. She was not only good at multiple sports like badminton, shot put, wrestling, speed ball, and skating, but also won several medals for them at various competitions. During her initial teenage years, Lakra wanted to become a badminton player, but due to financial constraints, couldn’t pursue the sport. She continued her training in sports and upon guidance from one of her uncles, switched to freestyle wrestling, and soon, began competing at the State and National levels, and even qualified for the prestigious Khelo India Championship.
Ekta Bhyan, Athletics: She represented the country in the 2018 Asian Para Games held at Jakarta, Indonesia, and won the gold medal in the Club throw event. She has also competed and won medals in several IPC Grand Prix held at Berlin in 2016, Dubai in 2017, and Tunisia in 2018. She also secured the gold medal in the 2016, 2017, and 2018 National Para Athletics Championships. She qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, following her second consecutive appearance in the World Para Athletics Championship (London 2017 and Dubai 2019). In 2019 on Women’s Day, she received the National Award for Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities in 2018, and the State Award.
Parul Parmar, Badminton: This Gujarat-based para-badminton player has been ranked world number one in para-badminton women's singles SL3. She was diagnosed with Poliomyelitis at the age of three. She has brought home gold in the women's singles and doubles at the 2017 BWF Para-Badminton World Championships. She has also won golds in women's single SL3 at the 2014 and 2018 Asian Para Games, has won gold in women’s singles SL3 category, at the 2018 Thailand Para-Badminton International. Previously, she brought home silver in 2014 Asian Para Games, and the bronze in 2010 Asian Para Games.
Palak Kohli, Badminton: This 19-year-old professional para-badminton player hails from Jalandhar. Since 2020, Kohli has been training in the national training camp under Gaurav Khanna who is head coach of the Indian para-badminton team. In April 2021, she brought home silver at the World Para-Badminton Competition in Dubai. Presently, Kohli is the-only para badminton athlete from the country to qualify for both women’s singles and women's doubles, at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.
Prachi Yadav, Para Canoeing: Gwalior’s Prachi Yadav has become India’s first para-canoe athlete to qualify for Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. Yadav was a former champion para-swimmer for India, but switched to para canoe, after heeding the advice from her coach, who suggested that this move would help take her to the Paralympics.
Sakina Khatun, Powerlifting: Hailing from Bangalore, this powerlifter has previously won the bronze medal for Weightlifting at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. After being selected for Commonwealth Games in 2014, Khatun finished 3rd in the women’s light-lifting category (up to 61 kg) after lifting a total weight of 88.2 kg.
Rubina Francis, Shooting: Hailing from Jabalpur, Francis is an Indian para pistol shooter. She is currently ranked number five by the International Shooting Sport Federation in Women’s 10m Air Pistol SH1 (World Shooting Para Sport Rankings), and has previously participated in the 2018 Asian Para GamesP2 – Women’s 10M Air Pistol (SH1 Events).
Avani Lekhara, Shooting: 19-year-old Avani Lekhara is an Indian para rifle shooter. She is currently World No five in Women's 10m Air Rifle standing SH1, and has also participated in the 2018 Asian Para Games R2 (in the Women's 10M Air Rifle Standing), R3 (Mixed 10M Air Rifle Prone), R6 (Mixed 50M Rifle Prone), and R8 (Women's 50M Rifle 3 Position).
Bhavina Hasmukhbhai Patel, Table Tennis: This para table tennis player from Mehsana, Gujarat, has won the Silver Medal for India in The Individual Category at the PTT Thailand Table Tennis Championship held in 2011. In October 2013, she won the silver medal in the women’s singles Class 4 at the Asian Para Table Tennis Championships in Beijing. She also won the bronze medal in International Table Tennis Federation Asian Para Table Tennis Championship in Beijing, China.
Aruna Tanwar, Taekwondo: Currently World Rank 4th in the W-49 kg (K43), and World Rank 30th in the W-49 kg (K44) event category of World Para Taekwondo Events. She became the first Indian Taekwondo athlete to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics Games on the allocation of a bi-partite invitation spot. Taekwondo Paralympic event will be featured for the first time during this event.