Varun Singh Bhati is a para High Jumper. When he got afflicted with poliomyelitis as a young boy, he decided to be an athlete and build his way to success. He did not let him stop him and moved forward. He has won several medals such as the gold medals in 2014 China Open Athletics Championship, 2016 IPC Athletics Asia-Oceania Championship, a bronze medal at the 2016 Summer Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and many more.
He was also awarded the Arjuna Award in August 2018 and was voted the best Para-athlete of the Year 2017 by the Times of India Sports Award. Read this interview to know what he said about his daily life to Team Storiyaan.
Questions and answers
Let’s start the interview by asking you about your school days where your talent was first recognized. Were your parents concerned about you being involved continuously in sports given your condition?
My family has always supported me since the beginning. It was a huge roller coaster for me. I had to face many defeats, but at the end of the day, I learned from them and kept myself going. My failures did not stop me, and they only made me push myself to work harder.
You have a BSc. Maths (Hons) degree from Maharaja Agrasen College affiliated to the prestigious Delhi University. How did you manage to strike a balance between sports and studies? According to you, what is the importance of formal education in a person's life?
I knew what I wanted to achieve, which is why it was easy for me to balance between sports and education. I hardly attended any sessions during my entire course in college. I would say, formal education is of utmost importance as it polishes us for our future. If you want to have a successful career, you must study.
How did being a sports person help you in shaping your personality as a human being?
Sports made me realize the importance of good health. It made me more mature, calm, and disciplined not only towards time but also food and people. It made me comprehend how health is significant, and only through good health can we achieve our goals.
Tell us something about your friendship with Mariyappan Thangavelu and Sharad Kumar. What kind of equation do you share with them? Is there a healthy competition when you are pitted against them during tournaments?
My friendship with Mari (Mariyappan) and Sharad is professional. There is no competition. I believe in competing with myself and doing better than I did before. Because like they say, “You are your biggest competitor.” So I try to outdo myself. But like I said, friendship is professional.
What are the extra precautions you have to incorporate during your sports regime due to your condition?
My Diet and my daily routine are of utmost importance. I have to make sure that my diet is balanced.
In the ‘Asian Para Games’ at Incheon in the year 2014, you just missed out on a medal and stood 5th in the tournament. How did you pull yourself from this unfortunate incident and went on to win a Gold Medal at the ‘China Open Athletics Championship’ in the same year?
The answer is simple. I believed in myself and my goal. I changed my techniques. Also, I added several exercises to my training. 2016 was a golden year. I received many medals, and I am happy about it. I lost in the 2014 Asian Para Games, 2015 World Championship too, but I learned so much from those experiences.
How did you feel when you received an autobiography of Abhinav Bindra with a personalized letter by the Olympic Legends himself, that too on your birthday?
It was unique and I was overwhelmed by his gesture. It was heartwarming for me. I felt incredibly honored.
You made an appearance on ‘The Kapil Sharma Show’ with fellow Paralympic games medallists Mariyappan Thangavelu, Devendra Jhajharia, and Deepa Mallik. After watching you on national television, did you feel that people finally recognized your talent?
Only to a certain extent, yes. However, I feel that we still need to spread more awareness about it. I believe more people in India need to know about Para Athletes.
What role is the GoSports Foundation playing in your life? Do you think there are fewer sponsors for differently-abled sportspersons?
There are surely less sponsors for Para Athletes. Go Sports have been doing a commendable job with Para Athletes and sponsoring them. I have been connected to them for the last four years, and they have supported me and guided me in every way possible.
The world is going through a crisis right now. How do you manage to keep yourself fit and stick to your diet when there is no access to outdoors and gyms?
I eat unadulterated and straightforward home-made food. I try to eat more fruits and even grow my vegetables at home, so it’s healthy. I am also having online sessions with my trainer and working out at home.
What are the things you engage yourself in when you are not training?
I like Gardening. So if I am not training, I invest my time in gardening. Other than that, I usually spend my time watching some series or playing games.
Can you describe the moment when you were honored with the Arjuna Award in the year 2018 by the president Sri Ramnath Kovind?
It was such a special moment. I felt proud not only because I was receiving the medal, but also because I saw my parents sitting there in the audience, experiencing that moment with me. I cannot express in words how it felt right at that moment.
After you were awarded the Arjun Award, you were complimented by your school St. Josephs, and you stated that you still practice on the school grounds whenever you are in Noida. How does it feel to go back to the place where the journey began and inspire the students?
It is one of the most beautiful and memorable moments for me. My school has played an enormous part in my career as an athlete. I don’t think I could have achieved anything if it wasn’t for my school or coach. Also, yes, I do still try and do my jumps in school when I am training in my hometown.
Any advice you would like to give to sports aspirants and especially to differently-abled people who want to make it big in sports?
Everyone’s an athlete. You just need to have confidence and believe in yourself to be successful. Differently-abled people have facilities available too, even if they are less. But that is how we can overcome our obstacles, fight them, and achieve success.
Lastly, how should both the athletes and coaches take precautions so that the former is not afflicted with any severe injuries during training, especially when a critical tournament is around the corner?
Firstly, follow proper guidance. Try to avoid negativity and stay away from it. Be prepared beforehand so that you can go for more massive exercises before a tournament.
1. Three people in sports you look up to Usain Bolt, Mutaz Barshim, Lebron James
2. The best compliment you ever received from your coach Satyanarayana: He always praises me, but the best one was, “You are a great friend to me.”
3. Your motto in life: To be better than yesterday
4. Next thing you want to achieve in life: There are many, but I don’t believe in disclosing them. Since, when you share, you are less likely to achieve them.
5. One actor whom you want to portray your character if a movie is being made on your life: Nawazuddin Siddique.