Almost two decades since he started competing at the world level, Indian para-athlete Joby Mathew, aged 46, has embarked on a journey he had never attempted before, one that could take him closer to his long-cherished dream of competing in the Paralympics.
Joby is part of a 12-member Indian Paralympic contingent that on Thursday left for the World Para Powerlifting Asia Oceania Open Championships to be held at Pyongtaek in Korea from June 15 to 20.
Come to think of it, Joby, a veteran of 24 world medals — including nine gold in a range of disciplines as diverse as arm wrestling, para-badminton and athletics throw events — has never taken part in powerlifting at the highest level.
“Many were surprised to learn that Joby has never represented India in powerlifting,” says Dr Megha Joby, the athlete’s wife. “He worked really hard to qualify. In fact, he’s back competing at the top level after a two-year break. He is determined as always,” Megha told Onmanorama.
In March this year, Joby competed in the 19th Senior National Para Powerlifting Championships in Kolkata. He was placed second by lifting 145kg in the 59kg category. It was a modest effort considering, Joby had lifted 156kg at the state championships.
However, it was enough to get him a place in the Indian team, in which he is the second oldest member.
Joby has a birth condition that caused stunted legs. At 3ft 5 inches, he is categorised as a physically challenged person with 60% disabilities.
The father of two, who is also a noted motivational speaker has constantly excelled in sports. One of his nine worlds gold came in the 2008 World Arm Wrestling Championships where he competed against able-bodied athletes to emerge the winner.
But Joby, who works as a manager at BPCL in Kochi is not done yet and his Facebook post comprising a selfie on board a flight to Incheon says just that. “Dear friends.. I am going to Korea for Para Powerlifting World Championship 2022 as a part of Team India to qualify Upcoming Asian Games and Paris Paralimpics 2024 (sic).”