In 2009, Gadadhar Sahu’s life changed forever. He was traveling from Odisha to meet his brother in Surat, Gujarat when he met with a mishap while deboarding the train. His injuries were so grievous that he was declared ‘dead’ by the first responders. It was only when he was being moved to the morgue that the medical team realised he was still alive and needed his legs to be amputated. Sahu was only studying in 7th standard when this accident happened.
Fourteen years since the fateful day, 29-year-old Gagadhar Sahu has emerged from adversity to bag a gold medal for Odisha in powerlifting following an impressive 140kg life in the 58kg category.
Sahu who had already seen fair share of struggle – due to poverty, refused to give up easily. In the aftermath of the tragic accident, most doors of a conventional life were closed for Sahu. To make a living, he helped his brother run a fast-food kiosk in his hometown Narendrapur, a small village located in the Ganjam District of Odisha. It was only after pursing bodybuilding as a hobby, did he find solace and a new identity.
His first triumph was a gold medal in wheelchair category of the Mr Odisha Junior Bodybuilding Competition in 2016. But the financial burden of the required supplements and nutrition proved too much, and he was eventually enticed by the discipline of para powerlifting.
“I was inspired by para-athletes when I read about them in the newspaper. I knew it would it not be easy as a para-athlete, but I had the belief and motivation to do it. Because I had the background in bodybuilding it was a natural fit for me, and I have been focused ever since,” he said.
On his preparation leading up to his gold medal at the Khelo India Para Games, the most significant triumph of his journey, Sahu said, “I have been training very hard to be the best version of myself. I have been training for two hours in the day and two hours in the evening every day, while helping my brother in his business as well.”
“It is hard to train in my hometown as facilities are not easily accessible. Fortunately, the Government of Odisha had invited us to train at the Kalinga Stadium for a ten-day camp ahead of the Khelo India Para Games, this was also a very crucial part of my preparation, and I don’t think I would have won the gold without it.”
Elaborating on his aspirations as a para athlete, Sahu said, “It is a truly special feeling to be on the podium, to win a gold medal while representing Odisha is an honour. My next aim is to be on the podium with the Indian Flag. I want to win medals for India.”