Hometown: Muzaffarpur, Bihar
Height: 5′ 11′
Age: 29 Years
Some Lesser Known Facts About Sharad Kumar
Sharad Kumar is an Indian para high jumper who represented India at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics. He was ranked as the world no. 1 para high jumper after breaking a 12-year Asian Games record at the 2014 Asian Para Games.
Sharad Kumar was born in 1992 in the Muzaffarpur city of Bihar India. At the age of 2, Sharad suffered from a paralysis attack causing completely paralysing his left leg caused due to taking spurious polio medicine at a local eradication drive.
Sharad’s journey of becoming a high jumper began in 1995 when he was enrolled at St. Paul’s School, a boarding school in Darjeeling, where he was balancing his education and sports very well. He was the only handicapped student in his class but never faced any difference between abled and differently-abled until one sudden day when he was not allowed to run in an athletic event held in his school. It was at this moment when Sharad felt that he need to work on himself and participate in sports.
Sharad drew his inspiration to take up high jump as a career from his school’s senior players who practised high jump and Sharad used to watch them in his free time.
Sharad Kumar’s brother proved to be the biggest support for Sharad. It was only him who took all the responsibilities of Sharad for continuing with his passion when no one else including the sports authorities of their school was supporting him. While talking about his brother, Sharad said,
My brother motivated me to be a high jumper. I broke all his records at school and it gave me the confidence to take the sport seriously. After St. Paul’s [school] I started training myself to be part of the national Paralympic team in Delhi.”
After vigorous training, Sharad won almost all high jump competitions held at his school. By seeing his efforts, his grade 4 teacher, Mr Denis, told him to participate in the Paralympics, after which he went to Delhi to enrol himself at the Modern School, Barakhamba Road, Delhi, a school popular for sports training.
Sharad Kumar marked his international debut at Asian Para Games 2010 held in Guangzhou, China. Next, he qualified for the 2012 Paralympics, making a 1.64m mark with his high jumping.
Sharad Kumar became the world’s no. 1 para high jumper at the age of 19, marking a jump of 1.75m at the Malaysian Open Para-athletics championship. 2012 proved to be a miserable year for Sharad as he was tested positive in a drug case and was banned for two consecutive years, which also lead to cancellation for participation at the 2012 London Paralympics. On being asked about the sorry incident in 2012, Sharad said,
I don’t want to recall that period of my life. It was a nightmare for me. It all happened by mistake. I don’t want to say anything about this. I was tested positive but I didn’t do it intentionally. I wasn’t aware of it even. It was actually a tough time, which tormented me from inside. I used to cry blood. I many times locked myself in a room and burst into tears. Now, I have forgotten it as a bad dream. I tried to convince NADA (National Anti Doping Agency), but when I was tested positive, there was no use in banging my head again and again. I was completely devastated. I used to feel ashamed that I am fighting a doping case. But I couldn’t explain the officials.”
Sharad made his spectacular comeback in 2014, winning a gold medal, breaking a 12-year Asian Games record with a 1.80m jump, and becoming the world’s no. 1 para high jumper. Sharad In 2016, Sharad Kumar participated in Rio Paralympics 2016 but could finish at the 6th position only.
Sharad Kumar was trained under Mr. Satyanarayana, National Para Athletics Coach from March 2015 until 2017, when he went to Ukraine to practising under the TOPS (target Olympic podium scheme, government of India ). Shifting to Ukraine was not less than a nightmare for him as moving to a new country and not knowing the local language created several barriers for him. He could not make new friends and also faced emotional as well as financial scantiness. Sharad Kumar spends almost 17 months of the pandemic in lockdown in Ukraine which also proved to be a hurdle in his high jump practice. During an interview, Sharad talked about his experience as,
After three days (of the announcement to postpone the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics) it struck me that 17 months is a lot of time when you had a fixed goal, for which you had put in four years of hard work. For me, being in Ukraine is for one target. All of a sudden, it’s wiped out and you have to train for another one-and-a-half year. You tend to lose interest.”
Sharad Kumar while living in Ukraine faced financial issues as the funding he received only took care of his accommodation and coaching fees. To bear his personal expenses, Sharad started trading and investing in the stock market. It was the only way out to keep up his the financial issues he faced. He used to read more about the economic situation of the world and what is a good time to invest and also took online courses for the same.
Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games is one of the highlights of Sharad Kumar’s career. Sharad jumped to 1.83m at the Olympic event and bagged a bronze medal making the whole country (India) proud.
Sharad Kumar suffered meniscus dislocation, just a night before the final Olympic event. According to Sharad, he cried the whole night and eventually thought of pulling him out of the final event. But just before doing that he called up his father who suggested him to read Bhagavad Gita helped him to overcome the anxiety for a bronze-winning effort.
Sharad Kumar’s father, Surendra Kumar, dedicated his win to Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying he was the one to motivate Sharad to keep up with hard work and deliver his best. Surendra Kumar, during an interview, said,
We have been waiting for this moment. During his journey of practice and hard work, my son was losing patience and was a bit disappointed. However, it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi who motivated and encouraged him. And finally, he has done it and made the country proud. Credit goes to the Prime Minister.”