New Delhi: Mariyappan Thangavelu stunned the sporting world on Saturday after he clinched a gold medal in men's high jump T-42 event at the Rio Paralympics.
He was left permanently disabled after a Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation bus ran over his right leg at the age of five.
According to a report in the Times of India, he not only had to battle disability but also financial and family problems growing up.
His mother, Saroja, was selling vegetables when a customer informed her of Mariyappan's record-breaking feat.
"I did not know what Paralympic really is. Initially, I thought my son has won another gold medal in a competition. Only when others explained to me, did I realise how big achievement was this," she told TOI.
Thangavelu, Saroja's husband, left home 15 years back and Thangavelu was raised single-handedly by his mother.
"I almost forgot to smile after my husband's separation. Now, everyone, including my sons and daughter, has seen me smiling after many years," she further added.
With three other children, apart from Thangavelu, to take care of, Saroja borrowed Rs3 lakh by mortgaging the house.
"I borrowed Rs3 lakh by mortgaging the house some 15 years ago to meet my son's medical expenses," she said.
Before selling vegetables, she took up several other jobs including that of a mason assistant and daily wager in brick kilns.
"Had it not been for Saroja's readiness to shoulder all challenges, they family wouldn't have survived," said P Thangamani, a villager, acknowledging Saroja's dogged determination.
"I don't have any contact with my husband for the past 15 years. But, he used to visit the house and chat the children once in a while," Saroja said.
Thangavelu claimed he always had confidence in his son's ability.
"He had achieved many medals in many competitions. I knew he will make the country proud one day," he told the newspaper.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha announced a Rs. 2 crore award for the athlete on Saturday.