Mariyappan Thangavelu became only the third Indian ever to clinch a Paralympic gold, while Varun Bhati secured a bronze as the duo scripted history for the country in the men's T42 high jump event of the ongoing Rio Games in Rio de Janeiro.
The 21-year-old Thangavelu, who was merely five-years-old when his right leg was crushed by a speeding bus while he was on his way to school, joined Murlikant Petkar (1972, swimming) and Devendra Jhajharia (2004, javelin throw) in the Indian Paralympics gold club.
Thangavelu won the yellow metal with his best jump of 1.89m, leaving behind world champion Sam Grewe of the USA who registered 1.86m.
Bhati's best effort was also 1.86m but he had to settle for the bronze medal on count-back, making it the first instance of two Indians finishing on the podium in the same event of a Paralympic Games.
The T-42 classification is for athletes with lower limb deficiency, leg length difference, impaired muscle power or impaired range of movement.
In the same event, there was disappointment for another Indian athlete Sharad Kumar who failed to finish on the podium.
Kumar had led the pack at one stage after clearing 1.55m and 1.60m but his best jump was only 1.77m which placed him at the sixth position overall.
The event witnessed massive competition as six out of the 12 para athletes cleared the 1.74m mark in their first eight attempts.
In his 10th attempt, Thangavelu jumped 1.77m successfully, along with three others - Poland's Lukasz Mamczarz, China's Zhiqiang Zhing and countrymate Kumar.
In the later stages with the contest being reduced to only three competitors, Bhati set the tone with a jump of 1.83m mark along with Thagavelu.
However, just when it looked like India would fetch a gold and a silver, the American cleared 1.86m to grab the top spot but the Indians also equalled the height to make it even.
Eventually, in a nail-biting finale, Thangavelu grabbed the top honours by finishing with a jump of 1.89m.
In other events, Sandeep and Narender Ranbir finished 4th and 6th resepectively in F-42 Javelin Throw competition with personal best throws of 54.30m and 53.79m.
Awards for Thangavelu and Bhati
Under the Sports Ministry's Cash Award Scheme, Mariyappan will get Rs 75 lakh and Bhati will be presented Rs 30 lakh for their feat. The prize money is at par with the medal winners from last month's Olympic Games as was announced by the Ministry before the Games.
Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa also announced cash award of Rs 2 crore to Thangavelu.
"I understand that this is the first time an Indian has won a gold medal in the High Jump event in the Paralympics," said Jayalalithaa.
"I was delighted to learn that Mariappan has won Gold Medal in Paralympics currently being held in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil," she added.
Congratulatory messages poured in
From Prime Minister Narendra Modi to India's lone individual Olympic gold-medallist Abhinav Bindra, congratulatory messages poured in from all corners for Rio Paralympic Games' T-42 high-jump gold-medallist Thangavelu and bronze winner Bhati.
"India is elated! Congratulations to Mariyappan Thangavelu on winning a gold & Varun Singh Bhati for the bronze at the #Paralympics," Modi tweeted for the duo.
Bindra welcomed Thangavelu to the gold medal club while congratulating the duo for their feat.
"Mariyappan joins the gold medal club, welcome! Kudos 2 @GoSportsVoices for aiding Varun Bhati who won bronze! Champs," he tweeted.
Sports Minister Vijay Goel also heaped praise on the duo.
"Congratulations to Mariyappan Thangavelu for winning #Gold & Varun Singh Bhati for winning #bronze in Men's high Jump at Rio," he said.
"It is a big achievement and I am very proud of our athletes," he added.
Rio Olympics bronze-medallist Sakshi Malik said the two are an inspiration for other athletes.
"Indian sports mein prerna ki kami nahin hai (there is no dearth of inspiration in Indian sports). Congrats Mariyappan Thangavelu aur Varun Bhati aapke gold aur bronze ke liye. #Paralympics," she tweeted.
Filmstar Amitabh Bachchan also congratulated the duo.
"T2375 -#Paralympics joy for India .. Gold & Bronze for Thangavelu and Bhatti in high jump ! COME ON INDIA !!!," he tweeted.
"Never seen anything more inspirational than this. Congrats Mariyappan Thangavelu #Paralympics #gold," added former hockey captain Viren Rasquinha.
Beijing Olympics bronze-medallist boxer Vijender Singh hoped that the two athletes would be accorded the same honours that were bestowed on Olympic medallists P V Sindhu and Sakshi.
"Hope india give the same prize money and honour to Paralympic athletes ???? #Rio2016Paralympics," he said.
Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju also congratulated Thangavelu and Bhati.
"Congratulations to Mariyappan Thangavelu on winning a gold & Varun Singh Bhati for the bronze at the #Paralympics," he said.
Olympic bronze-medallist boxer M C Mary Kom said it was a proud moment for the country.
"Congratulation. Both of you has make all Indians PROUD. #KheloIndia," she said.
The Indian Cricket Board was not to be left behind either and posted, "Congratulations Mariyappan Thangavelu & Varun Bhati on winning #Gold & #Bronze respectively at Rio #Paralympics."
"...history has been created today. Outstanding lives and games of these athletes will inspire generations to come," the party's official twitter handle quoted her as saying.
(With inputs from PTI)