It was not my best performance, says Sumit Antil after winning gold with world record throws

By PTI

TOKYO: Breaking the world record five times on his way to gold in the Paralympics did not suffice for reluctant-wrestler-turned-javelin-thrower Sumit Antil and the Indian vowed to better what was already an incredible performance by every yardstick.

The 23-year-old clinched India’s second gold at the ongoing Paralympics here on Monday, shattering the men’s F64 category world record multiple times in a stunning Games debut performance of 68.55m.

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He was a wrestler prior to a motorcycle accident that resulted in his left leg being amputated, before life smiled on him and a new avenue opened up.

“I was not that great a wrestler. In my area of India, the family forces you to become a wrestler,” he quipped.

“I started when I was seven, eight years old, and I continued for four or five years, but not regularly. I was not that good,” Antil said.

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“I met with an accident and had my leg amputated. After that, life changed. I went to the stadium just to meet people in 2015, and I saw para athletes. They said, ‘You have good height and posture, maybe you can be in the next Paralympics’. Who knew I would be the next champion?” He did become a champion on Monday, and that too, at the sport’s grandest stage.

“This is my first Paralympics and I was a little nervous because the competitors are great. I was hoping for a 70-metre-plus throw, maybe I can do 75m. It was not my best, I am very happy to break the world record.”

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This was not the first time he was making the javelin travel far.

A few months before the Tokyo Games, within a span of 20 days, Haryana’s Antil had broken the world record twice in the F-64 category.

In his sixth and last attempt he hurled the javelin to a distance of 66.90 metres at the 19th Para-Athletics Championships at Bengaluru in March.

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The effort bettered his own world record of 66.43 metres, set during the third leg of the Indian Grand Prix on March 5 in Patiala.

Both these efforts were, however, not recorded for world records.

On how much further he can throw, he said, “In training I have thrown 71m, 72m, many times. I don’t know what happened in my competition.

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“One thing is for sure in future I will throw much better,” Antil who started out as a wrestler before switching to javelin throw said. But he was definitely happy to have won the top medal at the biggest stage, terming it as realisation of a dream.

“It is a dream come true. I can’t express my feelings right now,” the 23-year-old who entered the Tokyo Paralympics as the world record holder in his event said.

Antil, who lost his left leg below the knee after he was involved in a motorbike accident in 2015, sent the spear to 68.55m in his fifth attempt, which was the best of the day by quite a distance and a new world record.

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In fact, he bettered the previous world record of 62.88m, also set by him, five times on the day.

His last throw was a foul.

His series read 66.95, 68.08, 65.27, 66.71, 68.55 and foul.

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Australian Michal Burian (66.29m) and Sri Lanka’s Dulan Kodithuwakku (65.61m) took the silver and bronze medals respectively.

The F64 category is for athletes with a leg amputation, who compete with prosthetics in a standing position.

A student of Delhi’s Ramjas College, Antil was an able-bodied wrestler before his accident which led to amputation of his leg below the knee.

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A para athlete in his village initiated him to the sport in 2018.

He also competed against Olympic champion Neeraj Chopra in the able-bodied Indian Grand Prix series 3 on March 5 in Patiala.

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