September 10, 2016
Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa announces Rs 2 crore cash award to Mariyappan Thangavelu for his Gold Medal winning leap of 1.89 meters. More cash awards are rolling in for this son of a vegetable vendor from a village in Salem district.
Chennai: One leap into history books with a jump of 1.89 meters at Rio Paralympics and Mariyappan Thangavelu got his entire family out of poverty – with the cash beginning to roll in few hours after he won the gold in high jump event at 2.52 a.m. on Saturday morning.
It was, at that time, his family –mother and younger brother Kumar Thangavelu and fellow villagers were glued to the television sets when Mariyappan lept to an awe-inspiring jump that secured gold for India – the first by an Indian in the high jump event.
At that moment, the family did hardly know anything about what was in store for them – monetarily till Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa made an announcement in the afternoon – a cash prize of Rs 2 crore, at par with Olympic medallists, to Mariyappan. But before this, the union sports ministry had already announced even as the Rio Paralympics was underway Rs 75 lakh to any gold medal winner.
So the moment, Mariyappan crossed the bar, his family was over of the poverty trap. Yes, there is a debt of some Rs three lakh over Mariyappan largely because of the loan they took to get sister married off. But all that is history now, with at least Rs 2.75 crore coming in, with just two announcements.
The way he has become an icon of sporting fraternity, with all the bigwigs like Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, boxing superstar Vijendra Singh, sports commentators, celebrities and politicians alike tweeting congratulations to him, is all set to inspire an army of youngsters taking to sport.
More important, said a sports journalist, “these success stories will inspire many from the poor and deprived sections of the society to take up sports a bit more seriously. And be successful,. Because they have the hunger to achieve, which is sadly missing in the relatively well to do people who may or may not give all they have got to succeed in sports.
Chief minister Jayalalithaa said as much in her message announcing the cash award of Rs 2 crore to Mariyappan, “you have done both the nation and Tamil Nadu proud. Your achievement, overcoming several obstacles and hurdles, will inspire more and more children and youth to overcome adversities and to participate and strive for greater achievements. Kindly accept my heartiest congratulations on behalf of the people of Tamil Nadu on your splendid achievement. “
She said, “I am very happy to inform you that I have decided that the Government of Tamil Nadu will award you a cash prize of Rs.2 crores on par with Olympic Gold Medal winners from Tamil Nadu,” Jayalalithaa said conveying her decision to reward him and hoped that “his achievement stands as a beacon of hope for all those striving to achieve success in their chosen fields overcoming all odds.”
In his village of Periavadagampatti of Salem district Diwali celebrations began early in the morning once Mariyappan stood on the podium for the Gold Medal. His pictures, with tricolor wrapped around him, beamed on television, only increased the intensity of the celebrations that are still continuing.
His brother, Kumar, got busy from early on in the morning with Tamil news channel reporters and television crew making a beeline to their home – a one room tenement that Mariyappan, his mother and two brothers shared.
His mother, Saroja, sells vegetables and also works as a casual laborer to make ends meet. Mariyappan was just five when he lost a leg after being crushed under a state owned transport bus while playing outside his house.
His mother’s continued support and the big hearted fightback waged by Mariyappan bore fruit after some teachers and coaches spotted talent in his and nurtured him. He went about winning medial at school and college level events.
Mariyappan has finished his degree in Business Administration last year and has been trying for a regular job, but has not yet got lucky. In the meanwhile, last year, coach Satyaranayana from Bangalore took him under his wings and been training him for Paralympics.
“My brother was paid Rs 10,000 per month as stipend. He gave the entire money to my mother so that she can run the house,” Kumar said.
“We were watching live, the event. At precisely at 2.52 am, my brother lept to a gold medal. For us it meant the world,” Kumar said but added “we always were confident he would win a medal.”
“We were bursting crackers, distributing sweets and there was much merriment since then,” he said.
Saroja, who earns Rs 150 to Rs 200 per day, thanked everyone for supporting her boy. Mariyappan was shy and reserved type and would only let his performances talk.