Sandeep, who has suffered from a dysfunctional left arm since birth, however, is yet to fulfil his dream of winning a medal for India at the Paralympics, the biggest international multi-sport event for para-athletes.
Recalling his journey over the years, the 25-year-old, who is promoted by Cairn India, told IANS: “I was around 14 and my then coach R.D. Singh had given me an aim — that I have to be a top-level athlete. He asked me for a medal at the Para Asian Games, which could have been achieved only through hard work and dedication.”
“I just followed his words.”
“This 14-15 year long journey has been a difficult one, full of injuries beside facing many other problems, nevertheless my devotion was always the same,” the 2016 Arjuna awardee explained.
On being quizzed about how he decided to take up sports, Sandeep said: “It all started in 2006. I belong from Hanumangarh and Devendra Jhajharia, the first Indian to win two gold medals at the Paralympics, used to train there.”
“He (Jhajharia) received a rousing welcome in my hometown after bagging gold medal at the 2014 Paralympics and that is what bought me closer to the sporting world,” he said.
About his unfulfilled dream, he said his main focus is on winning a medal at the 2020 Paralympics Games in Tokyo.
“I have always dreamt of a podium finish at the Paralympics. I will try to be fully fit when I enter the games in 2020. I am working on the mistakes I committed in the past, which denied me a medal in the earlier editions,” said Sandeep, who competes in men’s 100 metre, 200 metre, 400 metre and long jump events and is coached by Dronacharya Awardee Satyapal Singh.
Thanking Cairn India for its support to many para athletes like him, Sandeep said: “Cairn has supported a lot, be it financially or mentally. They take proper care of all my needs.”
Sandeep, who believes that the situation of para-athletes has changed after the 2016 Paralympics and that they are getting much-needed recognition nowadays, also expressed the hope of another good show at the forthcoming Para Asian Games and said his preprations have been fantastic for the prestigious event.
The Indian Para Asian Games contingent was given a warm send-off by none other than Bollywood megastar Shah Rukh Khan in a glittering ceremony in the national capital on Wednesday.