India, Media Apathy and the Asian Para Games

Sumit Antil
Sumit Antil (Image: Rohan)

Sumit Antil, who broke his own world record three times in 45 minutes at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo, did it again in Hangzhou. Another world record with a huge throw of 73.29m. And yet, Sumit isn’t trending. There are no Twitter/X threads about him. No breaking-news coverage on national television. No banner headlines in newspapers. Even sports websites don’t have him as the lead story.

While the Prime Minister has been stellar in celebrating Para athletes, the mainstream media has been extremely lukewarm. There has been hardly any coverage, and yet we wish to call ourselves an inclusive society which is now aspiring to be a multi-sport nation.

Sumit is one athlete who isn’t satisfied yet. And knowing him, I can say with certainty that at the Paralympic Games in Paris in 2024, he could again better his world mark. “Haan, world record hua but sahi mein bataun to mujhe 80 metre-plus javelin phekna hai [Yes, it was a world record, but if I’m being honest, I want to throw the javelin over 80m],” said Sumit. “Neeraj ne 89 meters pheka. Mujhe lagta hai mein bhi 80-82 meters phek sakta hoon [Neeraj (Chopra) has thrown it 89m. I think I can throw 80-82m].”

That’s his next ambition. Break his world record many more times and reach the 80m mark. And to think he isn’t celebrated much. Except on RevSportz, I have yet to come across a single exclusive interview. That is no surprise given that the number of Indian journalists in China for the Para Asian Games is a shocking two. Two. Let that sink in.

Like it or not, this is a telling comment about us and what we stand for. While we celebrate India’s five straight wins in the cricket World Cup, a world record at the Asian Para Games is no less worthy of acclaim. This winning mentality has made a significant difference and deserved to be celebrated. Had it been just one or two medals instead of the 150 that India now stand to win, this piece wouldn’t have been written.

What Sumit and dozens of India’s other athletes in China right now have done is incredible, and I shouldn’t even have to argue that para sport needs to be part of mainstream coverage. So, to every Indian sports fan, a sincere plea. While we hail our cricket stars as demigods and celebrate their World Cup effort, remember that our para-athletes are also heroes. The medals they’ve won are worth their weight in gold.

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