Meet Deepa Malik, the Extraordinary Paralympian!

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Deepa Malik

Accepting who you are is one thing, but embracing your differences and using them to uplift yourself is what sets you apart. Such is the story of Deepa Malik, a lady with faith in mind and passion at heart who gave a new meaning to the word ‘Sports’. Deepa did not let an accident define her entire life but wrote her own story. She broke several stereotypes and became the first Indian to ever win a medal at the Paralympics. In this Leverage Edu blog, we will celebrate the life of Deepa Malik and know her story to become what she is today.

Deepa Malik and Her Story

Deepa Malik
Credits: Paraolympics.org

Deepa Malik was born on 30 September 1970. At the age of 30, she entered sports and decided to build her career in the same. She has marked her name in the paralympic events and won the silver medal in shot put in Summer Paralympics held in 2016, which is the first to be won by an Indian. She tried her best to participate in the 2012 Paralympics, but she was unable to do so due to some political reasons. 

  • She has won numerous awards for her participation in adventure sports and is recent ranks at number 1 in the category of F-53.
  • She has shown her enthusiastic involvement in events like shot put, javelin throw, motorcycling, swimming, and discus throw.
  • She is also the ‘Clean India’ brand ambassador and an expert for Disability Inclusive Accessible Infrastructure for the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs” Smart Cities’ project. 

Early Life and Education

She was born in a North Indian family in the Sonipat district, Haryana. Her father’s name was Balkrishan Nagpal, who served as an Army Personnel. Along with her father, Balkrishan Nagpal, mother Veena Nagpal, and brother Vikram Nagpal stayed at Sonipat, Haryana.

Hailing from an army background Deepa was a very active kid who loved sports and played every possible game that was available to her. She took her degree in English Literature from Sophia College. She was also addicted to bike riding which was something that made her connect with Bikram Singh Malik, an army officer at the time who was also a bike aficionado. They shared their love for biking and later got married and shared their love in the form of their 2 daughters – Ambika and Devika. Her daughter Devika has also competed internationally as a sprint runner in Para athletics. You can find Deepa on Twitter and Instagram here

Deepa was detected with a spinal tumor at five years of age, which forced her to undergo treatment for over three years. Finally, after three years of treatment, it was successfully cured. The strict time didn’t end here, and she was again diagnosed with a spinal tumor in 1999, which made her undergo surgery. She went through a total of three surgeries which ended up paralyzing her lower body. 

She was a Kendriya Vidyalaya scholar, Calcutta, and completed her graduation from Sophia College at Ajmer. On 27 June 1989, she married Bikram Singh, an Indian army officer, and has two daughters Ambika Malik and Devika Malik. 

Credit: Fit Talk

Family Bonds

Wife of an army man and a mother of two daughters, she loves her family a lot and shares how her family has always supported her throughout her life. But she has an even more special bond with her elder daughter Devika who also developed an impairment at an early age. When Deepa was again diagnosed with tumors that ended up in surgery that paralyzed her from the waist down her daughter Devika began presenting the symptoms of hemiplegia that limited the movements on her left side.

Just as I was getting used to bringing up Devika with her challenges, I was myself bedridden. I was learning my new body. Somewhere I felt maybe destiny got me to this, to be a role model for my child to exercise.” Years later Devika represented India in the Paralympics following in the footsteps of her mother. Talking about her life at home she says “In our house, whenever there’s cooking, it’s family time. If it’s bathing time, I can wash Devika’s hair. It’s given us a reason to bond all the time. Certain activities that other families may have never thought of [give us] a better life. I think both of my children have grown up to be more compassionate, positive, open, and they are better human beings. They’re thinking beyond normal” which just proves that she is a mother as amazing as she is an athlete.  

The Inspiring Career of Deepa Malik

At the age of 36, she planned to pursue her career in sports. She enthusiastically participated in numerous events like a shot put, Discus Throw, Javelin, etc. She healthily competed in several national and international events and made India proud by securing medals. She is the first Indian to secure a silver medal in shot put in Paralympics held in 2016, followed by winning several awards in Asian Para Games for three consecutive years, 2010,2014, and 2018.

Credit: Life Beyond Numbers

Motor Sports

Deepa Malik’s objective behind joining motorsport was to make people aware that the physically disabled ones could also obtain the license and be independent and self-reliant. Deepa has conducted several rallies to spread this message and promote the cause. She is the first physically challenged individual in India who received an official rally license from the FMSCI and eventually became a navigator and rider in the challenging car rallies like Raid-de-Himalaya and Desert Storm held in 2009 and 2010, respectively.

Achievements

Deepa Malik elected Paralympics body prez
Credit: The Tribune
  • This extraordinary woman has 23 international medals and 68 national and state level medals to her name and not just in one game but many. Swimming was something that she was doing while rehabilitation and she had come 10th at the World Championship in Berlin in swimming. But the lack of heated swimming pools meant she was at a risk in winters so she decided to retire with a bang.
  • She made a record in the Limca Book of World records for crossing Yamuna which was the first out of the 4 that she possesses. After that, she switched to Javelin throw because she didn’t want to stop playing.
  • She won a bronze medal at the 2010 Asian Para Games in Guangzhou. Multiple records and medals at international competitions followed.
  • Deepa made history at the age of 46 by becoming India’s only woman silver medalist in the shot put F53 category after the win at Rio 2016 Olympics.
  • In the upcoming Tokyo Olympics shot put had been replaced by discus throw and she had been training for it winning a bronze medal at the 2018 Asian Para Games in Jakarta in the process.
  • Due to frequent injuries, the doctors advised her to stay away from the sport and she finally retired but not before bagging the Arjuna Award in 2012 for her performance in swimming, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award and Padma Shri in 2019. She is truly an inspiration for everyone. 

Her Impact

  • Being a first at many things like – being the first Indian female para-athlete to win an Asian Games medal in athletics as well as the first female World Championship medal.
  • She is also India’s first female Paralympic medalist across any sport and made history by becoming the only Indian woman athlete to win medals at 3 successive Asian Games and create and retain the Asian Record in javelin throw throughout the years.
  • Breaking old records and creating new ones is a habit of Deepa and through all these accolades she has paved the way for many more people to work hard and achieve what they want.
  • Beyond being the trailblazer for para-athletes she is also the founder of the Wheeling Happiness Foundation, a cause to enhance the emotional health of people with challenges and empowering women to live a more self-reliant life through sports, mobility aids and disability advocacy. The Foundation has already positively impacted more than about 10,000 lives.
  • Deepa contributed to better sports policies for the physically challenged in her role as a member of the Working Group for the Formulation of 12th Five Year Plan (2012 – 2017) and is an expert consultant for Disability Inclusive Accessible Infrastructure for the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs ‘Smart Cities’ project.
  • She is a Brand Ambassador of the Election Commission of India, helping them to encourage all citizens to vote specifically for the youth, women and people with disabilities. And after spending close to 2 decades as an athlete she was elected as the President of the Paralympic Committee of India in February 2020 where she is ready to impact even more lives.
  • When asked about her future plans she said – “I have to go by the rules that exist in India. However, if the call of forces comes into play, then I might rethink my decision around the 2022 Asian Games. I do not know if the sportsperson in me will ever go away. For now, I have to retire, if I have to pursue the post in PCI”

Appearance in Public Shows

In 2019, Deepa Malik appeared on the screen through the famous Indian TV show named ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati as a guest for International day of Girl child.

Credit: Ability Magazine

Awards

Name of Award Year
Rotary Women of the year award 2007
Guru Gobind Shaurya Puraskar 2009
Rashtra Gaurav Puraskar 2009
Naari Gaurav Puraskar 2009
District Sports Award Ahmednagar 2010
International Women’s day appreciation Award 2011
Shree Shakti Puruskar CARE 2011
Misaal-e-Himmat Award 2012
Maharana Mewar Arawali Sports Award 2012
Media Peace & Excellence Award For Sports 2012
Arjuna Award 2012
Nominee for L’Oreal Femina Awards 2013
Limca people of the year award 2014
Padma Shri Award 2017
Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award 2019

Records by Deepa Malik

  • IPSC Asian Record in Javelin F-53 Category
  • In F-53 category made three national records in Throws
  • Three National Records in S-1 Swimming Category
  • She has a World ranking of 2nd in Shot-put, 3rd in Discuss, and 3rd in Javelin for 2010-12.
  • She has a first ranking in all three rows of 2010-12.
  • 2008: Swimming in River Yamuna against the current for 1km.
  • 2009: Riding special bike
  • 2011: First woman in the world in her disability to drive across nine-high altitude passes in nine days on Leh-Ladakh Highest Motorable roads.
  • 2013: Longest Pan-India drive done by a paraplegic woman(Chennai to Delhi 3278 km)

“To wear the national blazer and march at the opening ceremony was a dream come true”

Deepa as a Motivational Speaker

Deepa Malik is a famous motivational speaker who brilliantly structures the content for her audience and makes the talk super energetic. The hardest to convince audience also end up being satisfied by the address of this inspiring lady.

The content of her talk and stories is not only catchy but also practical. Her simple language, friendly gestures, and convincing attitude make here people’s favourite.

Credits: JoshTalks

Political Journey of Deepa Malik

Deepa Malik, the famous paralympic athlete, joined the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2019. Her entry into politics raised tough questions in her followers’ minds, which she addressed in an exclusive interview conducted by OneIndia.

Deepa Malik’s aim behind entering politics is to use it as a golden opportunity to contribute to nation-building on a broader scale.

“I hope my journey and the medal can serve as an inspiration for differently-abled individuals to break out from their social boundaries and pursue their dreams”

In a real sense, Deepa Malik is an all-rounder lady who has always surprised the audience with her spectacular performance in sports, governmental works, motivational lectures, and a lot more. Her confidence and self-belief make her an overachiever, ultimately leading to a successful life. Through her precious words, she has given new hope to hundreds of physically challenged people and continues with a dong the same. For more such awesome content, stay connected to Leverage Edu!

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