India’s Ekta Bhyan is all set to compete in the club throw event at the Tokyo Paralympics 2021, an international multi-sport event for persons with disabilities to be held from August 24, a fortnight after the Tokyo Olympics.

“We are persons with disability, but we are people first and disabled later,” said Bhyna. “It is not right for people to focus just on our disability and sideline our achievements as athletes.”

Bhyna was in a car accident in 2003 and suffered a spinal cord injury and has been using a wheelchair since then. She suffers from complete paralysis in her lower limbs and partial paralysis in her upper limbs.

In 2013 she met with her coach, fellow para athlete and Arjuna Awardee Amit Saroha who had the same condition. From there she began her journey as a player in club throw, a sport unique to para sports designed for athletes with a disability in all four limbs.

36 year old Bhyna represented the country at the 2018 Asian Para Games and won a gold medal. She has also won gold in the 2016, 2017 and 2018 National Para Athletics Championships. She will be India’s only representative in the Tokyo games this year, with 23 other athletes among whom only three are women.

India is way behind other countries when it comes to supporting people with disabilities, according to Bhyna. “There is also very less representation of females with disability in the country and in sport,” she added, saying that even the infrastructure provided to para athletes could be better.

When it comes to coaches, “There is only a small number of able bodied coaches who understand the needs of disabled athletes, '' said Bhyna.

Another problem is that not a lot of people know about para sports. “There is very little coverage of Paralympics by the media and even those are not pictorial,” Bhyna told The Citizen.

India has won 12 medals at the Paralympic Games - four golds and as many silver and bronze. Deepa Malik is the only woman on the list, having won a silver medal at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio.