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Despite vision impairment, poor walking posture, Simran Sharma becomes Para World champion in 200m T12 category | Sport-others News

Born as a premature baby after a six-and-a-half month term, Simran Sharma suffered from vision impairment since her birth and spent more than six months in an incubator. Struggling with her vision, it would also mean that Sharma would be teased by neighbours about her walking posture as well.

That seems like a long time ago for her. Now, she will still be the topic of discussion in her neighbourhood, but this time, they will talk about her with pride.

And they will be talking about a world champion.

On Saturday evening, the 26-year-old ran her personal best timing of 24.95 seconds in the women’s 200m T12 final to become the world champion in the World Para Athletics Championship in Kobe, Japan.

The Indian para athlete also won the Paris Paralympic quota with her gold medal finish. It meant that India finished with their best tally of 17 medals including six gold, five silver and six bronze medals.

“When I was born premature by two-and-a-half months, my parents were so worried that they would not sleep for days. They would tell me that the doctors had given up hope on my survival. It was a miracle that I survived but it would also mean that when I grew up, I had poor vision and would struggle to see things even six feet away. A lot of neighbourhood kids would tease me and ask things like ‘how many fingers I can see’ or would push me in the wrong direction. This world title is a new direction for me as well as people like me,” said Sharma while speaking with The Indian Express from Kobe, Japan.

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Simran Sharma Sharma would win the gold with a time of 13.91 seconds in China before she qualified for the World Para Championships in Dubai, where she finished eighth in the 100m T13 final the same year. (Paralympic Committee of India)

It was the neighbourhood of Goelpuri in Modinagar, Ghaziabad that a young Sharma grew up with her father Manoj Kumar who worked as a medical practitioner. While her mother Savita Sharma encouraged her to walk and run in the neighbourhood park, Sharma would be fond of spending time following her mother for a brisk walk. It would come in handy for the youngster as she registered for her graduation at the Rukmani Modi Mahila Inter College at Modinagar. The youngster’s interest grew in running and she would compete in inter-college competitions. “I would always follow my mother for a walk and it helped me grow in confidence. When I attended college, a lot of my friends too would encourage me. Yes, there were people who would taunt me, ‘Yeh kya bhagegi,’ but then I had the belief in me,” shared Sharma.

A meeting with her eventual husband Gajendra Singh in 2015 would see Simran start training at the MM College athletics track. Singh, who originally belongs to village Khanjarpur near Lucknow, was also an athlete and would work on Sharma’s strength initially before working on her sprints. The couple would eventually get married in 2017 after facing a lot of resistance from the family. “Simran has been my strength and she did not ever hesitate to train. Initially, a lot of people said things about our marriage but then we both act as each other’s support and that’s what keeps us going,” said Singh, who is currently working as Naik in the 227 company of the Indian Army’s Army Service Corps.

Two years after their marriage, it was after a meeting with Para Athlete Narayan Thakur that Sharma decided to compete in the para category. Sharma competed in the World Para Grand Prix to get her licence done for the then women’s T13 category, also coming under vision impairment in 2019. In order to fund that license, the couple had to take a loan and Singh sold a plot of land.

Sharma would win the gold with a time of 13.91 seconds in China before she qualified for the World Para Championships in Dubai, where she finished eighth in the 100m T13 final the same year. In 2021, Sharma clocked 12.74 seconds in 100m in the World Para Grand Prix in Dubai before she would qualify for the women’s 100m T13 event in the Tokyo Paralympics.

At Tokyo, Sharma finished fifth in the heats. “When we had to go to China to get the licence, my husband took a loan of Rs 3.5 lakh apart from selling a plot of land for nine lakhs. Initially, when I would train, I would struggle to stay in the lanes. My body posture was such that it was inclined towards the left side. So my husband would train me with weights tied to my back and side to help me stay in the lane,” said Sharma.

Last year, Sharma suffered a thigh injury before the World Para Athletics Championships in Paris. Five months after the injury, Sharma would win a silver medal each in the Hangzhou Asian Games. In the 100m, Sharma clocked a timing of 12.68 seconds before winning the silver medal in 200m final with a timing of 26.12 seconds. “When Simran suffered the thigh injury, it meant that she spent 3-4 months recovering at home. We would also practise lane running doing shadow running for her so that instances of lane infringement or going over the other lane does not happen,” says Singh.

In Kobe, Simran first clocked a timing of 25.26 seconds in the heats before clocking a time of 25.12 seconds in the semi-finals. In the final, she edged out Darlenys De La Severina of Dominica (25.08 seconds) and Lorriane Gomes De Aguiar (25.40 seconds). While she was disqualified in 100m heats due to a lane infringement running along with her helper, Sharma is confident of improving further. “I had come with the target of winning the Paris Paralympics quota for India and I am glad that I could achieve that. Each race is like a new race for me and I have to adjust to my abilities. I want to win a medal for India at the Paralympics and the aim is to repeat hearing the national anthem at Paris like I did today,” said Sharma.

As for Singh, the couple will be back on the track at JLN Stadium in Delhi once they are back. “The celebrations can wait for some time before we win a Paralympcis medal,” says Singh.

On Saturday, Para athlete Rinku Hooda’s bronze medal in the men’s javelin throw F46 was updated with the silver medal and fourth placed Ajeeet Singh upgraded to bronze medal after silver medallist Sri Lankan’s Dinesh Herath was disqualified after Friday’s event.

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