I hope my journey and medal can inspire many, says Deepa Malik

I hope my journey and medal can inspire many, says Deepa Malik

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After becoming the first Indian female athlete to qualify for the Paralympics, Deepa Malik brought joy to many by winning the silver medal in women's shot put F-53 event. Saying that her disability had made her stronger, the 45-year old also credited her family as the motivation for her success.

The thought of being confined to a wheel chair for the rest of our lives can crush any normal person. But Deepa Malik was not one to remain stranded. Using her disability as an added motivation, she became the first female Indian athlete to win a medal at the Paralympics. Expressing her joy at winning the medal at Paralympics, Deepa said,

“I still cannot believe it. To become the first Indian woman to win a Paralympic medal is an honour and it is something I will cherish for the rest of my life. I hope my journey and the medal can serve as an inspiration for differently abled Indian women to break out from their social boundaries and pursue their dreams,” in an exclusive interview with The Times of India.

When asked how she manages to juggle multiple roles as a wife, mother, athlete, biker, motivational speaker, Deepa credited her success to the people around her.

“When people around you are supporting and cooperative, everything becomes easier. My family understands the challenges. I always try and work around my schedules. Being a biker has always been my passion. The athlete part is probably the most challenging, but the rewards (like the one in Rio) make it all worth it.”

After suffering a spinal tumor in 1999, which required three surgeries and left her paralyzed from the waist down, Deepa fought back all the odds to achieve her dreams. When asked whether disability had made her a stronger woman, the Arjuna Award recipient said, “Without doubt. You always gain strength from adversity and I think I did that as well. The tumour and the subsequent surgeries forced me to reconsider my life's goals and inspired me to venture on a new path of self-exploration and excellence.”

Despite criticism from all parts of the country that athletes do not receive proper support from the Indian Government, the 45-year old has revealed that the government has funded and supported her practice throughout.

“The government, through the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS), funded my preparations here in India. They have offered a lot of support this time. But the support needs to continue in a planned and sustained manner. The next major event is the World Championships in 2017. What needs to be done is to implement developmental programmes specifically for para sports, including investing in infrastructure to ensure that the support reaches a wider group of athletes,” Deepa told ToI.

Speaking about what she plans to do next, Deepa said, “Nothing much for now. I just cannot wait to get back to India to be with my family and friends and celebrate the success at the Paralympic Games.”

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