I can’t wait to celebrate Rio success in India with family, friends: Deepa Malik

If it is said that women juggle different roles with ease, it is absolutely right in the case of Deepa Malik – a wife, mother, biker, swimmer, motivational speaker, and now, a silver medalist in shot put at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio, Brazil. All this, in spite of being a paraplegic and confined to a wheelchair since surgeries to remove a tumour, 15 years ago. A day after she scripted history in Rio, she interacted with us and opened up about her path to success at the Paralympic Games, motivations, plans ahead and more. Excerpts…

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.

I remember that when I was first diagnosed with a tumour, people thought I would be restricted to my house throughout my life with others looking after my daily needs. But I wanted to break out from that mould and took to sports – swimming, motorsports and eventually javelin and shot put. My performance was good in the lead up to the Games, but I wanted to leave a mark and not just come here to compete and go back home. So, I put even more effort into my training, performed my personal best at the trials in July and bettered that here in Rio.

My family first – my two daughters who have always stood by me, my husband who quit his job to travel with me for competitions. It would not have been possible without their support. Then my strength and conditioning coach Vaibhav Sirohi, who worked round the clock to help me get fitter and stronger. Finally, I would like to thank the Sports Authority of India for funding my training in the lead up to the Games, and of course the GoSports Foundation team for always being there for me and for funding my international competition in the US earlier this year and also facilitating my strength and conditioning coach Vaibhav’s travel to Rio to be with me ahead of my event.

I trained in Delhi at Siri Fort with my strength and conditioning coach. Suggestions of training abroad was often offered to me but I preferred to stay in India to train in a familiar environment where I was more comfortable. You don’t always need to go abroad to train to achieve something great. What is important is to plan your preparations the right way, and I think my performance in Rio proved that.

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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.

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.

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.

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. (PTI)

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