The unsung Indian Olympians
If one expected to see poignant scenes and a mood that perhaps was sombre in every aspect, then one was in for a pleasant surprise.
If one expected to see poignant scenes and a mood that perhaps was sombre in every aspect, then one was in for a pleasant surprise. Although the theme for the special seminar was ‘Disability and Sports’, under the aegis of the US Consulate General Hyderabad, the better part of the symposium revolved around the emotional issue of the special athletes, who were as positive as the regular sportspersons.
And perhaps more enthusiastic! There was a sense of despondency, lament and regret at the manner they were treated as children of a lesser god. But in terms of enthusiasm the participants displayed a gutsy spirit that was laced with an overwhelming level of confidence.
The event held in association with Special Olympics Bharat at Kasturba Gandhi Degree College for Women in West Marredpally on Friday to commemorate the Women’s Equality Day was spearheaded by Public Affairs Officer of US Consulate General Hyderabad, Gabriel Hons- Olivier, Area Director of Special Olympics Bharat C Rajashekhar, mentor of Special Athletes Darapalli Anil Kumar.
It is a sad commentary on the state-of-affairs in Indian sports that despite having reaped a rich harvest in the Summer Special Olympics 2015 in Los Angeles, the rewards were a pittance when compared to what Indian medal winners from London and Rio earned. Rajashekhar was bang on when he stated “We did not receive any grand reception after wining these medals. This has not deterred our craving for more international laurels. We are confident of doing an encore in next year’s Winter Special Olympics.”
He has every reason to feel dejected. Just consider this-the Indian contingent won 247 medals, including 61 gold and 65 silver medals in Los Angeles. However, a touching speech was delivered by Kulliamma, who was gold medallist in the Special Olympics. Call it a tragedy of our times or whatever, but her fervent desire is “to playing a badminton against PV Sindhu. I remain hopeful that someday my dream would come true.”
She is not alone. Most of those who were present expressed such lifetime desires. Speakers pointed out that though they were getting support from the State Government, it was less than desired. This was way off the mark compared to the toil each of these special athletes put in. In fact, they feel indebted to the likes of Darapalli Anil Kumar, whose largesse is such that he has dedicated himself to coaching the both the special athletes and the intellectually-challenged, including in table tennis, athletics and badminton.
Recalling his childhood where he could not rise to the expectations as a player, Anil Kumar feels blessed that ‘I responded to my inner calling. Training these special players has now become my avowed passion. I get the maximum satisfaction when they win laurels for the country.” Indeed, for all their achievements, they remain largely unknown to a majority of those in the sports fraternity.
By Ashish Tiwari