A Sri Lankan war veteran has made history, setting a world record as he secured his country’s first gold medal at the Paralympics.
The favorite, Devendra Jhajharia of India, had to settle for silver with his best throw of 64.35. Fellow Indian Sundar Singh Gurjar took bronze with a best throw of 64.01.
Dinesh Priyantha Herath Mudiyanselage set a new world record in the men’s javelin F46 on Monday, giving Sri Lanka its first-ever Paralympic gold medal.
The 35-year-old Sri Lankan’s third throw of 67.79m broke the world record that had previously been held by Devendra, the 2016 Paralympic champion.
“I am very happy because my main dream came true. I have no words to describe,” Priyantha was quoted by olympics.com. The former soldier’s disability came as the result of a gunshot wound in 2008 that ended his career in the Sri Lankan army. Priyantha, who said he first picked up a javelin as a form of recreation after having spent more than four years recovering in hospital, dedicated his gold medal to his wife.
“I have three children and my wife looks after them very well. She motivates me. Our youngest child is only eight months old… She has given me freedom to do sport. I thank my wife for this gold.”
Priyantha was serving in the army until a gunshot wound to his left arm derailed his army career. He stayed in the hospital for more than four years but took up Para sports when he recovered.
“When I was a schoolboy, and (later) in the army, I didn’t play any sports. After I got injured, I was in hospital for more than four years. I had three gunshots to my arm during the war in Sri Lanka in 2008.”
“Because I was in an infantry regiment, most of my friends also got injured the same day. So they were in the hospital chatting to each other.
“After I recovered, I wanted to play a sport as a recreation. My wife was a maximal boost for me.”
His decision to take up athletics was not in vain. Today, he stood on that track as a champion and a true Paralympian.