“It’s important to sometimes forget the defeats and keep working towards bigger goals.” That is the motto of Manish Narwal, the 19-year-old shooting sensation who has secured the third gold medal for India in the Tokyo Paralympics 2020. The lad from Ballabhgarh had to come to terms with a traumatic experience in childhood. During the first grade, he noticed there was something wrong with his right arm. There was an impairment that made him different from the rest. In a Youtube interaction several years ago, Narwal stated that he ‘cried a lot’.
Fast forward to September 4, 2021. The tears flowed but this time of joy. Manish Narwal became the third gold medalist from India in the Tokyo Paralympics 2020. After Avani Lekhara and Sumit Antil, Manish Narwal secured the gold in para-shooting. It was a magnificent occasion for the youngster, who once again highlighted the brilliance of India’s youth and their aspirations to dream big.
Manish Narwal always wanted to play football but the impairment saw his prospects being restricted. Speaking to the Paralympic.org website, Narwal spoke about how he made the switch to shooting thanks to the advice of his father.
“I always wanted to be a footballer as I loved outdoor sport. But due to my impairment, I couldn’t play the game beyond the local club level. A close friend of my father told him to think about introducing me to shooting. My father took me to the 10X Shooting Academy in Ballabgarh, run by coach Rakesh Thakur. Had he not been there, I wouldn’t have excelled in the sport. I owe my success to him,” Narwal said.
Narwal had finally found the sport of his calling. He was shooting left-handed and he made a mark in the 50m air pistol SH1 event. The SH1 classification is designated to athletes with upper and/ or lower limb impairment for competition in Pistol events. With Narwal’s arm impairment, he became eligible for the shooting SH1 pistol event.
The youngster, who idolizes Lionel Messi and Usain Bolt, was now in a class of his own when it came to pistol shooting. He started shooting in 2016 and immediately continued to rack up success in the sport. Shooting without assistance as according to his class, Narwal was in fine form right from his first tournament in 2017.
During his first stint in 2016, Narwal ended with two gold medals. In the 2017 Nationals, he ended up with five gold medals and a record. The 2018 Para World Cup in France saw him secure an Olympic quota but he continued to rack in success. He secured the gold in the 2018 Asian Para Games. All this came after the hurt of the 2018 Cheongju World Shooting Championships in which he failed to qualify for the finals.
In the 2019 Para Shooting World Cup in Al Ain, Narwal secured the bronze medal. But, in 2021, the build-up for the Tokyo Paralympics started in grand style when he broke the world record and also won the gold medal. He had overcome several former and past greats in the Paralympic shooting en route to creating a name for himself in the sport.
In the first-ever National Championships in India, Narwal, along with Lekhara also won medals in grand style.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Narwal was given another bit of good news. He was one of the eight para-athletes to be felicitated with the highest sorting honors by the Government of India. Narwal, 18, became the second para shooter after Naresh Kumar in 1997 to get the Arjuna Award. In the last three years, Narwal had won 19 national, 17 international events as well as breaking the world record nine times.
During the Tokyo Paralympics, Narwal scripted a new Paralympics record following a score of 218.2 in the Mixed 50m Pistol SH1 Final. With the third gold medal, India has now ensured that they have enjoyed their best-ever Olympics in the history of the Games. This is the first time in history that India have won three gold in a single edition of the games. The likes of Lekhara, Antil and Narwal have given new India the kind of positivity that was missing for the last couple of years.
Overcoming the odds and delivering a performance that has seen India break new ground is all thanks to the efforts of young stars like Lekhara, Antil, and Narwal. It is a sign of brilliance that India can now dream of winning more medals in this decade. The efforts of Tokyo Paralympics 2020 and the earlier Olympic medal haul of seven by our ‘normal’ athletes show that Indian sport has started going in the right direction. A bit more fine-tuning and a boost in some infrastructure will give Indian sport a big surge in confidence.
For now, the nation is grateful to Lekhara, Antil, and Narwal for making India one of the top nations in the Games.