Some winners are just born with the zeal and commitment of never giving up and that’s what makes them winners. The man that made India proud with his victory at the 2016 Paralympics games, Mariyappan Thangavelu, hails from Tamil Nadu and his story has been nothing less than inspiring.

Early stages of life:

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This gold medal winner was only five years old when his right knee was crushed in a bus accident, which left him permanently disabled. Later his father abandoned the family and he and his mother Saroja had to go through a tough life financially. Saroja has been offering domestic help for years and her livelihood banks on selling vegetables. But she ensured that Mariyappan’s initial love towards sports developed into something special. Mariyappan was a volleyball player earlier. From being that person to becoming only the third Indian paralympian to win a gold medal, Mariyappan has come a long way. However, even at this point, his family continues to be involved in a legal issue against the state-owned transport corporation.

A Mother’s love:

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Mariyappan’s success is all because of his mother’s resilience and his coach’s endless support. After his father abandoned the family, he and his mother Saroja had to go through a tough life financially. Saroja has been offering domestic help for years and her livelihood banks on selling vegetables. But she ensured that Mariyappan’s initial love towards sports developed into something special. Mariyappan was a volleyball player earlier.

An embodiment of passion:

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Mariyappan is very much used to winning. At the age of 14, in his first competitive event against able-bodied athletes, he came out second. Satyanarayana, his coach, was quick enough to spot him at the National Para-Athletics Championship when he was just 18 and things totally changed after that.

Undergoing intense training session in Bengaluru, he became the World No. 1 in 2015 in his first year of senior-level competition. The athlete has a gold medal at the IPC Tunisia Grand Prix when he jumped his personal best of 1.78 meters which got him a berth at the Paralympics. The same year, he also completed his Bachelors in business administration and has been hunting for a job ever since.

The Celebrations:

After his medal-winning performance, the family, living in the Periyavadagampatti village in Salem district of Tamil Nadu, celebrated by bursting crackers and distributing sweets. “I sincerely thank each and every one who is supporting my boy,” said Saroja, the mother of four children who earns Rs 75 to Rs 100 on a day, after Mariyappan’s victory.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Sports Minister Vijay Goel and former Olympic gold medalist Abhinav Bindra appreciated him on his feat. The list however isn’t ending just yet. Tamil Nadu district sports officer, Periya Aruppan, congratulated Mariyappan and Satyanarayana over the phone and ensured he will provide him with all sorts of help.

Later, the Tamil Nadu government announced a cash reward of Rs 2 crore for Mariyappan. TN Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had this to say on his performance: “I was delighted to learn that Mariyappan has won Gold Medal in Paralympics currently being held in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.”

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