Para athlete Ekta Bhyan is our new superhero. She just earned India two medals — gold and bronze — in club throw and discus throw at the World Para Athletics Grand Prix in Tunisia. But her story is an inspiration for all for more reasons than her sporting talent. The Haryana civil services officer is not only an academic achiever, she has shattered glass ceiling for disability in many admirable ways.

It was an accident in 2003 that badly damaged her spinal cord, leaving the Haryana girl paralysed from waist down.

The accident that changed her life

“Initially, I had great interest in studies and wanted to become a doctor. So, after completing 12th from medical stream, I went for pre-medical coaching at an institute in Delhi. But destiny had some other plans,” Ekta told SheThePeople.TV.

“On the very first day of coaching, an overloaded truck of vegetables fell on our stationary car in the parking lot. I met with spinal cord injury in the accident, resulting in shoulder down paralysis, impacting both lower limbs and partial paralysis in upper limbs. Since then (2003) I have been on wheelchair,” she recalled.

The 33-year-old is certainly an example of ‘Ability beyond Disability’

Route to Grand Prix

So what was the real inspiration behind completing in Grand Prix?

Ekta said she took to the sport towards the end of 2015. Arjun Awardee Amit Saroha has played an instrumental role in coaching her for the big stage. “He is the person who brought me into Para Sports. Representing India at the international stage was my childhood dream. Constant support and encouragement from parents and coach motivated me to compete at the Grand Prix,” Ekta told us.

Ekta Bhyan Shares Her Journey To Grand Prix Gold
Ekta Bhyan at Grand Prix

About her upbringing, she said, “Life has been the usual, like any other child born and brought up in a middle-class family. My father, a horticulture officer in Haryana government and mother, a housewife, have brought us three siblings up, with great potential to do something bigger.”

Favourite quote ”Life is not in our hands but living is…”

Ekta said the initial period after the accident was tough and traumatic both physically and mentally.

“But with parents’ support and nine months of treatment at hospital, I started learning about life and its very small tasks all over again like a child. I resumed studies, completed B.A (English honours), M.A (English) and B.Ed. The studies imparted a lot of confidence in me.”

With family support behind her, she worked very hard to be financially independent. She bagged four government jobs. “My efforts paid off when I got selected for Haryana civil services (the exam I always wished to qualify) and joined as an Employment Officer at Hisar,” she added.

Ekta Bhyan Shares Her Journey To Grand Prix Gold

READ OUR INTERVIEW: Don’t Wait For The Change, Be The Change: Deepa Malik

Battling Head On

Ekta’s journey to achieving big was just starting. From overcoming the accident to making it to the international sporting event and balancing a career, it all happened rather suddenly. It was Amit Saroha who trained and motivated her to win Gold medal in Club Throw and Bronze medal in Discus throw at National Para Athletics Championship at Panchkula. Later, she represented India at IPC Grand Prix in Berlin, Germany, in July, 2016. There, she clinched the silver medal in Club Throw and Fourth position in Discus Throw.

“It was a proud moment to win a medal for the country at the international level. Today, my international rank is sixth in Club Throw and fifth in Discus Throw. And Asian rank First in both games. Now, my target is to win the gold medal for my country in Asian Games, 2018 and Olympics 2020, Tokyo,” Ekta said.

Ekta Bhyan Shares Her Journey To Grand Prix Gold

Overcoming disability

“According to me, I overcame my disability the day I qualified for one of the most reputed exams of Haryana and took up the job. At that time, one of my interviews in newspapers was uploaded on social media and somehow it reached my present coach Amit Saroha, who contacted me and motivated me to join para sports,” she said.
When asked what drives her towards the sport and how she maintains a balance, she said, “Yes, initially it was challenging to strike a balance between job and sports, but slowly I started adapting by reducing hours in other activities and focusing on sports. Sports means a lot to me. The best part is holding up our Tricolour, the proud moment and representing and bringing laurels to the nation.”

“I believe there is no short cut. Hard work, dedication and determination is the only key. Every day is precious as it takes you forward, towards your goal.”

Ekta Bhyan Shares Her Journey To Grand Prix Gold

Biggest challenges

“Being physically challenged, we face two kind of barriers – physical infrastructural barrier and mental barrier. Most of the public places are inaccessible for wheelchair users.”

“Disabled people are often seen and treated sympathetically. People think they are incapable of doing worthy things in life. But the opposite is the truth. If they are given opportunities and suitable (disabled friendly) environment to compete, they can do miracles. They can excel in any field of their interest,” the fierce athlete stated.

The Para sports scene in India

Ekta may have made a name in the international circuit, but does India appreciate her worth? After seeing other players and teams at international level, she said, “We are making progress and we expect that there will be a better tomorrow. Our Paralympic Committee of India is making great efforts for para sports.”

Change can be brought by people like us by encouraging every sport and sportsperson. Complaining or blaming is not the solution

How sports in general has liberated women? 

“Yes, sports has liberated women in many dimensions, like there are policies that offer them employment in government sector after a good performance, which finally make them financially independent,” asserted Ekta. “Their presence in sports also give them social recognition and they are treated at par with men. Women should pursue sports professionally. It makes them physically fit, financially independent and socially valued. This will also increase their self-esteem,” she added.

Ekta Bhyan Shares Her Journey To Grand Prix Gold

Tips for aspiring sportswomen

  • Being woman, I want to convey that you are not an inferior gender. We are capable of doing every stuff (physically and mentally) which a man can do.
  • Don’t restrict yourself. The more we participate, more our existence will be recognised. The only condition is hard work and commitment towards your goal.

“Physical disability is not a barrier in attaining your dreams. Yes, we look different but your mental strength can create miracles. The way you see or treat yourself, society will reciprocate the same way. So, accept yourself, see your beauty and treat yourself well, and start working towards your dreams,” the gutsy player said, summing it all in a nutshell.

Image Credit: Ekta

Read More Stories By Ria Das

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