Niranjan Mukundan is a Indian para-swimmer who is making waves for India. He is the first Indian para-swimmer to have crossed 50 International medal haul representing India. He is also the recipient of the prestigious ‘National Award’ from the Indian government, becoming the youngest to receive it.
From being crowned as the ‘Junior World Champion’ for a record breaking performance at the Junior World Games 2015 by winning 7 Golds & 3 Silvers, Niranjan went on to win bronze medal in 50m butterfly at Berlin World Series and also created an Asian record in 200m backstroke at the same event. The number 1 ranked national champion has held the career best world ranking #10 and Asian ranking #2.
Niranjan has been named in the Forbes 30 under 30 Asia 2019 list under the ‘Game Changers’ category.
He is a man who knows a lot about overcoming all odds to achieve his dreams. His story is a testament to the power of determination and grit. Through his extraordinary story, he has proved that a disability need not be a roadblock in the way to achieving success.
Belonging to a very humble and down to earth family in Bangalore, Niranjan was born diagnosed with Spina Bifida, a neural tube defect which affects the spine, leaving him paralysed below the hips. Having had to wade through a series of complex surgeries since birth, the Bengaluru boy had a slew of difficult decisions to make in life. Throughout his formative years, Niranjan and his parents bore the brunt of societal stigma against people with disabilities; with everyone telling them that their son would never be able to walk or run properly, let alone play any sports. Despite this, they never lost heart.
To strengthen his leg condition, doctors suggested him swimming. He instantly connected with water like a fish and learnt swimming in a month’s time. His coach identified his talent and encouraged him to take this as a sport. His parents were hesitant initially as it was difficult for him to walk and representing his state or country seemed far from reach.
Niranjan eventually agreed and started swimming professionally at the age of 8. With much nervousness he represented Karnataka at the Nationals but finished dead last in his first race.
“Disappointed, I went to my coach and told him competitive sports isn’t for me. But my coach persisted with me and we trained hard again. He told me patience and perseverance is going to take you higher”
I have always been a fighter and wanted to break the stereotype thoughts of the people by proving that differently abled people are not less than anybody in the world.
Having undergone 19 major/minor surgeries since birth collectively on his spine & legs, a lot of people thought Niranjan would not succeed in sports because of his condition but with his willpower and the everlasting support from his family and coach, he went on to win numerous medals in his career.
He first represented Karnataka in 2004 and won a silver medal at the national swimming championship and ever since then he has been a part of the Karnataka swimming team.
His first International event representing India was in 2013 at the World Junior Games held in puerto rico, USA and since then he has been part of the Indian Para Swimming team. But his swimming career has been nothing short of a rollercoaster ride. Various injuries due to his medical condition put him out of Commonwealth Games 2014 & Asian Games 2018. Niranjan came back stronger from those injuries and won medals for the country.
To date, Niranjan has a tally of 66 medals won representing India while 100+ National & State medals representing Karnataka.
His achievements in the pool, brought him even more accolades. Niranjan received the National Best Para Sportsperson Award from the Government of India in 2015 and the Eklavya Award for outstanding performance in sports by the Government of Karnataka in 2016.
“I have never given up despite of my condition and the number of surgeries i have undergone with grit and self confidence to represent india at the highest level. I have been nick named as 'The Medal Machine’ of India for my record breaking performances and for my comebacks from injuries to make our country proud.”