(September 1, 2021) When Sumit Antil headed to Tokyo last month he was one of India’s top medal prospects. Currently ranked at World Number 1, Antil held the world record for javelin throw. What everyone did not expect was that he would go on to break his own record not once but three times in the finals of the Tokyo Paralympics and clinch the gold medal for India in F64 javelin throw. As the world watched in awe, the 23-year-old athlete executed a monster javelin throw of 68.55 m setting a new world record.
ख़तरनाक performance भाई सुमित 👌💪 proud of you 🇮🇳 https://t.co/CNUDDtPAc7
— Neeraj Chopra (@Neeraj_chopra1) August 30, 2021
But this world record holder was training to become a wrestler when an accident changed his life.
A life altered
Born in 1998 in Sonipat, Haryana, Antil always aspired to join the armed forces. His father was a JWO with the Indian Air Force and passed away in 2004. Antil began training as a wrestler so he could join the Army under the sports quota. However, things took an unexpected turn in January 2015 when he was returning home from his tuition classes. Antil’s bike was hit by a tractor that then ran over his left leg, leaving it crushed. Doctors at the Army Hospital, where he was admitted, had no choice but to amputate the limb just below the knee. After 53 days of recuperating, Antil was moved to the Artificial Limb Center in Pune where he was fitted with a prosthetic leg. While he had to abandon his dreams of becoming a wrestler, Antil was determined to soldier on and continued his normal workouts. In an interview with The Times of India, this B.Com student from Delhi University’s Ramjas College, said,
“If I had my left leg, I would have been a wrestler. I wanted to join the Indian Army through the sports quota. I rejected many government jobs because of this. but the accident shattered my dreams of joining the Army.”
Change of course
Despite the accident and his inability to pursue wrestling, Antil was determined to not give up. He wanted to continue in the field of sports. In 2017 he was introduced to javelin throw by Rajkumar, a para athlete from his village, who also told him all about Para Games… this was new information and gave Antil a new purpose. That is where coach Naval Singh, Antil’s coach stepped in. He guided him through thick and thin and helped him find his footing in javelin throw. “I am thankful to my coach Naval Singh who helped me those difficult times and whatever I am today, it is because of him,” he said.
The initial days were rather challenging for Antil, who would often be in intense pain after practice. Oftentimes, the liner of his prosthetic limb would be filled with blood due to the excessive heat and friction during practice. Regardless, Antil marched on turned his focus only on his sport. He began training under Nitin Jaiswal in Delhi, and eventually began participating in various national and international competitions. His talent got him noticed by GoSports, which inducted him into the Para Champions Programme in 2019. That same year he participated in the World Championships in Dubai where he won a silver medal in the F64 javelin throw. This also earned Sumit Antil a berth in the Tokyo Paralympics delegation where he went on to shatter his own world record.
“I wanted to win a gold medal with a world record. And I did it. I won’t stop here. I have to go a long way.”
And a long way he does have to go, for the para athlete has his sights set on the 2022 Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and World Championships. However, before he does, it is time for some rest and recuperation since his elbow is overused after his Tokyo outing. But Sumit Antil’s zeal and determination to soldier on despite life’s challenges are commendable.