High Over The Hurdles – Journey of Mr. Mariyappan Thangavelu

Pic: drivespark.com

Anything is possible in this world if we have strong passion towards our goal. You can overcome anything and everything when you dedicate yourself towards your ambition. This has been proved by young and energetic person who has bagged gold medal in the 2016 Summer Paralympic games held in Rio de Janeiro in the men’s high jump T-42 category. Yes! It is none other than Mr. Mariyappan Thangavelu. In this article, we are going to see the journey of Mr. Mariyappan Thangavelu.

Early Life

Mariyappan was born in a village named ‘Periavadagampatti’ in Salem district, Tamil Nadu, India. He is one among the five children. His father abandoned the family which made his mother, Mrs. Saroja to become the backbone of the family. We would have heard the sayings – “Being a single parent is not a life full of struggles, but a journey for the strong”; “A single mother has a backbone made of steel and a heart made of gold”. His mom stood as a best example for these sayings.

Mrs. Saroja raised her children carrying bricks until becoming a vegetable seller, earning ₹100 (US$1.50) a day.

Challenging situation

A day came in his life which made him to suffer from permanent disability of right leg. He met with an accident made by a drunk bus driver when he was on the way to his school. The bus crushed his leg below the knee, causing it to become stunted. But he never saw himself as a physically challenged person. He completed secondary education.


Mariyappan enjoyed playing volleyball in his school days. His physical trainer, Mr. R. Rajendran motivated him to try high jumping. He got full encouragement from his physical trainer, classmates and others in Salem district after being placed second amongst a field of able bodied competitors at the age of 14. That was his competitive event.

His coach Mr. Satyanarayana spotted him at the National Para-Athletics Championship when he was just 18. After rigorous training in Bengaluru, he became the World Number 1 in 2015, his first year of senior-level competition.

Gold Medallist

In March 2016, Mariyappan cleared a distance of 1.78m in the men’s high jump T42 event at the IPC Grand Prix in Tunisia, qualifying him for the Rio Paralympics. At the Rio Paralympics, he won the gold medal in the men’s high jump T42 finals, with a leap of 1.89 m.


Mariyappan completed his Bachelor’s degree in business administration from AVS College of Arts and Science. He is planning to pursue his Master’s degree in business administration from the same institution. 


He is India’s first Paralympian gold medallist since 2004

He has donated ₹30 Lakhs from his prize money for the development of the Government School where he has completed his schooling

He is the India’s flagbearer at the Rio Paralympics closing ceremony on September 18

Awards and recognition’s

He has bagged the gold medal at the 2016 Summer Paralympics for which he has been awarded with the following:

₹2 crore (US$300,000) from the Government of Tamil Nadu

₹75 lakh (US$110,000) from the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports

₹10 lakh (US$15,000) from Yash Raj Films


At his hometown, his friends, families and residents gathered even before the break of dawn to celebrate his victory. Their joy doubled on hearing the cash awards announced by various organisations.

The level of confidence

Where there is a will, there is a way. Mariyappan told his mother Saroja that he would return home with a medal from Rio. He has did what he has said. “We are elated. He has done our village and the country proud,” Mrs. Saroja told The Hindu.

Salem Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu contract coach K. Elamparithi, who trained Mariyappan in his initial days into a champion material, said: “I always believed he had the ability to win the gold for his country. And, he has done that.”

In an interview with The Hindu in March, 2016, Mariyappan believed he had good shot at the Rio Paralympics and said, “Even a gold is possible.” Today, he made it.

Last but not the least

Mariyappan Thangavelu has undoubtedly placed Tamil Nadu on the map with this rare achievement and helped India jump within the top 30 places in the medal’s tally.

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