‘Special’ Ashok seeks to lift Haryana with powerful Khelo India show

"VAN" (Sports Desk - 09.12.2023) :: A career-threatening injury at the Asian Para Games in 2018 almost ended para powerlifter Ashok’s hopes of standing on the podium for India at a major event. But it was his sheer guts and never-say-die attitude that helped him realise his dream four years later at the Hangzhou Asian Para Games recently where he won a bronze medal.

Now, Ashok is eager and all-set to take part in the first ever Khelo India Para Games and show what determination and faith in one’s own abilities can bring to the fore. Representing the Haryana state, home to several Olympic medallists including golden boy Neeraj Chopra, Ashok will join a mega contingent of 243 para athletes who are all-set to put up a grand show of perseverance and ensure Haryana finishes on the top at the first-ever Khelo India Para Games 2023 scheduled to begin in New Delhi from this Sunday, 10th December 2023.

“Since the day Khelo India first edition was held in 2018, all para-athletes used to think when will we get chance to be part of Khelo India Games. Finally the day has come. Representing India at international level is the ultimate dream for any athlete, but such has been the buzz around Khelo India Games that we all are looking forward to be part of it,” says an upbeat Ashok.

A victim of spurious polio drop, Ashok’s legs were severely affected resulting in him being confined to a wheelchair very early in his childhood. His interest in powerlifting stemmed from his desire to have a good physique like many Bollywood actors. He says, “I used to see Salman Khan, the movie Rambo (Sylvester Stallone), Sanjay Dutt and felt like I must also have a physique like them. There was nothing that I could do with my lower body, but I wanted to really build my upper body.”

Accompanied by his friends, Ashok joined a gym but often became a subject of laughter. Many ridiculed him for his disability. But Ashok never gave up. Very soon he started lifting heavier weights compared to his fellow able-bodied gym mates. This egged him on to take the sport seriously and started representing his state at the National level tournament.

But his elevation as a para-lifter was deterred by a career-threatening injury. In 2018, at the Para-Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia, Ashok suffered a severe hand injury. His injury was such that both his radius and ulna bones were crushed and protruded out of his skin. After examining Ashok, the doctors opined that his career in para sports was over.

“The doctors told me that you will never be able to lift anything heavier than one kilogram and that my sports career was over. I was totally shattered as there was nothing, I had done in my life apart from power-lifting,” says Ashok remembering those gloomy days.

His injury was not the only setback Ashok faced that year. Tragically, his father had expired just months before the Asian Para Games and the financial responsibility to take care of his family had fallen on his shoulders. But his mother and coaches continued to back his dreams of winning a medal for India in powerlifting.

“Ashok is a very humble boy. He is very much connected to his roots. I don’t think any other athlete could have dreamed to take the sport again after such freak accident. I could see his bone coming out of skin but it is his sheer determination and mother’s prayers that he has not only come back but come back with a bang,” says J P Singh, Chief Coach, Para Powerlifting of India.


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