My journey in sports was difficult. Especially because I came from a very different background from others. I was 36 when I started my career in sports so there was obviously an age gap. Of course funds and infrastructure are an issue when it comes to para sports but above that fitting in was also a big challenge for me since most of the athletes came from different social backgrounds. The majority of them are from rural areas and here I was from an urban family.
A daring biker, efficient swimmer, motivational speaker, a successful entrepreneur and above all India’s first woman to bag a Paralympic medal-Deepa Malik; the lady who never bowed down her head in front of adversity and fought against all the odds of life. By bagging a silver medal in the Rio Olympics of 2016 in women’s shot-put F53 event, Deepa scripted her name in the history of sports. She has excelled in all those fields in which she took interest, becoming more and more humble with each accomplishment instead of bragging about them. At present, Deepa is successfully running her restaurant, preparing for the upcoming sports events and motivating people through her amazing and unbelievable journey.
Born on 30th September 1970 in Haryana, Deepa was born to a veteran infantry Colonel BK Nagpal with gifted potentials to top-notch the world of sports with her grit and courage. It was all good and smooth life being an ideal daughter, a supporting wife of Colonel Bikram Singh and a sincere mother of two lovely daughters-Ambika and Devika. But what we say is fate that completely switches off your life to the downturns of empathy.
It was 1999 when Deepa was diagnosed with a spinal tumour for which she had to go through three major spinal surgeries, enduring the pain of 183 stitches in 14 years of treatment. A tumour made her body below the chest paralysed, but that was when the story of a champion began. Instead of weeping on her wounds, Deepa made her way firm to prove to the world that she has lost nothing.
Being the daughter and wife of an Army man, Deepa adapted the qualities of enduring pain and still being strong against all the odds. Of course, her family and dear ones played a crucial role in making her more focused on abilities than disabilities that were what lead Deepa to become the hero of not only her life but others as well. Deepa teases off the face of adversity by deciding to do everything that reminds her of being alive. Besides doing all her regular tasks, Deepa made her way ahead for swimming, bike riding, car racing, and athletics, and excelled in all the realms. Even her family and trainers were so shell-shocked watching her performing like a normal person although her body trunk below the chest is numb. She was 36 by that time, rejecting failure at every step of her adventurous journey. Deepa was in the midst of her life when she rolled up her sleeves for the big moves, the time when athletes think of being retired. Being a huge fan of biking, Deepa joined the Himalayan Motorsports Association and surprised everyone with a victorious 1,700 km bike ride to 18,000 feet in sub-zero temperatures. She is the first person to receive a license for a modified rally vehicle and also the first physically challenged person to receive the rally license from the Federation Motor Sports Club of India (FMSCI). After that; she also became the navigator and driver of the Raid-de-HIMALAYA 2009 and Desert Storm 2010 that are regarded as the toughest car rallies of the nation.
To make her arms and shoulders strong, she started swimming, but after watching her supersonic speed in spite of her paraplegic state, Deepa was suggested by her trainers to participate at national level swimming events which she bravely accepted and proved to the world that disability is only a state of mind. It was extremely hard to believe for everyone that a lady in her 40s with a paralysed body, successfully crossed the stretch of 1km of Yamuna river with an upstream flow in 2008 became the first paraplegic woman to cross the highest motorable pass of the world. Deepa, holding the experience of 45 years to fight against the odds, made her way to the Olympics and finally brought home India’s first medal by a woman in the Paralympics in 2016 by showing her knack as a shot putter. Until then, Deepa had clinched around 54 national medals with her astounding and jaw-dropping performances as swimmer, shot-putter, javelin thrower and the first biker of her kind.
The Government of India appreciated her exuberance and aplomb by bestowing the highest sporting honour of the nation “Arjuna Award” in 2012. With a brave heart, Deepa covered the regions on her special bike where normal people find it hard to go. Deepa is the only Indian woman to earn qualification for IPC World Athletics Championship in 2013 in Lyon. In spite of all odds, Deepa stands out as an example to the world, excelling in every niche she stepped in, without letting her disability deter her way to success. It’s hard to imagine a lady confined on a wheelchair to achieve success streaks which Deepa did without any doubt.