The 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio saw a lot of firsts. And one of those was the silver medal Deepa Malik won in shot put, making her the first Indian woman to medal at the Paralympics.
But her silver medal was by no means her first. Deepa is a decorated athlete with 58 national medals and 18 international medals. Deepa has always considered herself the “outdoorsy” type, and has competed in such events as swimming and track and field. She is also a biker and rally car driver.
Deepa was paralysed from the chest down due to a spinal tumor in 1999, so she relies on her upper body strength in order to compete. Several months before the Paralympics, Deepa knew she had to improve her arm strength if she wanted to be a top contender in the shot put event. So she began an intense exercise and diet regimen. One change she made to her weight training was to isolate muscle groups and work them out individually so as not to compromise other muscles she had no control over. “
When you lift weights against the ground, it requires so many people, because I don’t have torso balance. Somebody has to be holding my legs, somebody holding my torso, somebody pulling my shoulder back, because my body has to be stabilised.”
Besides her intense workout schedule, Deepa also stuck to a strict schedule for eating and for handling issues related to her paralysis such as bladder and bowel management. She even took a break from social media and her social circles to concentrate on training.
Deepa’s family also participated in her routine. Her husband Bikram took a six-month sabbatical from his job to become her trainer. And their daughter, Devika, a psychologist, helped with the mental aspect of her mother’s training.
All of Deepa’s hard work paid off in Rio when she threw her personal best in the shot put: 4.61 meters. She says of her accomplishment: “Nobody ever thought that Deepa Malik, after three spinal surgeries, at 45 and in one of the most severely disabled categories, would increase her throwing distance by a metre.”
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