Army blade runner eyes Tokyo 2020 after golden run

New Delhi, Oct 28 : An Army soldier, who lost his left leg in a mine blast near the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir in 2008, has made India proud by bagging three gold medals at the recently concluded Military World Games in China.

The soldier, Anandan Gunasekaran (32), a blade runner, won gold for India in the 100m, 200m and 400m sprint events for para-athletes. The seventh edition of the Military World Games concluded in Wuhan city in China on Sunday.

Upon his return from Wuhan, Gunasekaran told IANS on Monday that his next aim is to compete in the Tokyo Paralympics in 2020.

“My final trial for selection in 200m for the Tokyo Paralympics will be held in May next year. That is the only obstacle left before me now for getting selected for the Tokyo Games,” he said.

Earlier in August, Gunasekaran had won the gold in 200m at the World Para Athletics Grand Prix held in Paris. In the previous edition of the Military World Games held in South Korea in October 2015, Gunasekaran had won the gold in 200m apart from winning the silver in 100m.

An avid sportsman throughout his career, Gunasekaran, who was inducted into the Madras Sappers of the Indian Army in September 2005, took to competitive running only after the mine blast left him permanently disabled.

He still vividly remembers the events of June 4, 2008, the day he fell victim to the blast in Nowgam sector in Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir.

“On that fateful day, I was descending a slope along with three other soldiers after completing a check on a wire fence along the LoC. The three colleagues were walking ahead of me. I was the last one in the group to descend the slope when my left foot fell on a hidden landmine. I was unlucky, as the area was not a minefield,” Gunasekaran told IANS.

He was rushed to a government hospital in Srinagar where his disfigured limb was amputated. He was shifted to the Army hospital in Pune after over one month of treatment in Srinagar, where another amputation was conducted upon him to remove the entire portion of the left leg below the knee.

“I didn’t reveal about the amputation to my family members till six months. I reached my family home in Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu one fine day with a wooden prosthetic leg. I just told them that my leg had to be amputated because it developed an infection. My mother was strictly against my rejoining duty. However, I ran away from home and rejoined my unit,” he said.

During this period, Gunasekaran also read about South African bladerunner Oscar Pistorius whom he considers his role model. Pistorius won six gold medals in Paralympics in different sprint events before being convicted of the 2013 murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Gunasekaran ran in the 2012 Mumbai Marathon with a wooden prosthetic leg and covered a distance of 2.5 km in 9.58 minutes. Thereafter, he asked his unit commander for a prosthetic blade which the Indian Army provided in 2014.

“Using the blade to run wasn’t easy, I toppled a number of times. After regular practice, I competed in the International Paralympic Grand Prix in 2014 where I won two gold medals and a silver medal. From there onwards, I have regularly competed in international fixtures. For any average human being, it is important not to lose heart in the direst of circumstances. My motto in life is to pick myself up and run each time I fall,” he said.

Married to a college lecturer in 2013, Gunasekaran is the father of twin kids. He is presently posted with the Madras Sappers in Bengaluru.

(Ayaskant Das can be contacted at ayaskant.d@ians.in)

/IANS

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