Varun Singh Bhati is a 24-year-old para high-jumper from India. Having been afflicted with Poliomyelitis at a young age, his sporting talent was discovered while he was still in school. It was through sheer hard work and dedication that he won several medals in a multitude of international events, including a bronze at the 2016 Summer Paralympic Games and the 2017 World Para Athletics Championships, and the coveted Arjuna Award in 2018. He was also voted Para-athlete of the Year at the Times of India Sports Awards in 2017.
The famous quote, “Self-belief and hard work will always earn you success” personifies Varun Singh Bhati, for he is a champion who has managed to mold his shortcomings into his strengths and has had the courage to pursue and achieve his dreams.
How did you feel when you got nominated for the prestigious Arjuna Award in 2018 and then subsequently won it?
Arjuna Award is the second-most prestigious sports award after Khel Ratna. Receiving the Arjuna award surely boosted my confidence. I am still young and have time to win the Khel Ratna in the future. It’s quite rewarding that my achievements are being acknowledged and appreciated by the government. I recall that I had visited Darbar Hall during a class picnic during my school time but never in my wildest dreams had I imagined that one day I would be bestowed this great honor and be felicitated by the President of India in that very same place.
What cultural change do you wish to see in the sports industry, specifically with respect to para-athletic sports?
Para-sports have shown great improvements in the last couple of years and that can be attributed to the hard work and dedication shown by all para-athletes which has, in turn, resulted in great performances. I strongly believe that there should be a mainstream broadcast of our events so that para-sports can have a wider reach and so that people can know the insane amount of work and sweat we put into training, and not only for us but also for the viewers to get motivation from! There should be a grassroots para-athletic revolution in India with frequent competitions being organized at the district and state levels. Children should also be motivated to join sports
As a Delhi University alumna, what advice would you like to give to the current students regarding balancing academics and extracurricular activities?
Although I am a Delhi University alumnus, I never really attended college in that sense. I never lived that life as I had my priorities set that needed my utmost attention and focus. One must set their priorities and accordingly decide on their course of action. Lastly, follow your passion!
From not qualifying for the summer Paralympic Games in 2012 to emerging as the gold medalist in the China Open Athletics Championship in 2014, and then going on to record your highest individual score at the summer Paralympic Games in 2016 in Rio, please tell us about your journey till date.
For sure, It was a crazy roller coaster for me; to go from not even qualifying for the summer Paralympic Games in 2012, to emerging as the gold medalist in the China Open Athletics Championship in 2014, and then going on to record my highest personal score at the summer Paralympic Games in Rio. I had to face many defeats, overcome various challenges, learn from them and get myself going. I believed in myself and my goal and thus, changed my technique, added several exercises to my training regimen and voila, come 2016, a lot many feathers were added to my cap. I lost in the 2014 Asian Para Games and 2015 World Championships, but learned several things from them!
With the great deal of influence that you hold, how do you manage to keep yourself inspired and motivated?
Fear of failure keeps me going. You do not need anybody to motivate you, ‘You’ are the motivation. My love for high jumping keeps me going!