Saturday, December 29, 2007

Let the Paralympics begin!

Physically and visually impaired, paraplegics, amputees as well as mentally impaired swimmers demonstrated customised versions of their swimming skills at the VIII National Paralympic Swimming Championship 2007 that is being held at the Tilak tank, Deccan Gymkhana Club in the city.

The two-day event, which commenced on Friday, has been organised by the Bal Kalyan Sanstha in collaboration with the Swimming Association of India for Disabled (SWIMAID), comprises 200 events and has over 400 athletes participating, from across India.

The athletes have been divided into four disability categories based on medical classification namely: S1 to S 5 comprising swimmers who are locomotion impaired, S6 which pertains to swimmers suffering from Downs Syndrome and intellectual impairment, S7 referring to the visually impaired category and S8 which comprises the hearing and speech impaired swimmers. With no separate Masters Group having been designated this year, the swimmers have been divided into the seniors (19 years of age and above), juniors (5-18 years of age) and sub-juniors (below 15 years of age).

“Around 415 athletes have registered with us, of which around 126-127 are female. The championship will also see over 36 participants who have secured various medals in international events, like visually impaired Kanchan Mala Pandey from Amrawati and Binod Kumar Singh from Haryana, who participated in the FESPIC Games or Sharath Gaikwad from Bangalore who bagged five medals in the International Wheelchair and Amputee Games (IWAS),” said SWIMAID Secretary Dr V K Dabas. With over 180 swimmers, Maharashtra topped the list in terms of participation, while West Bengal, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh had over 40 swimmers participating in the event.

“For these athletes, its not about winning or losing but about representing the country and winning, despite their impairment. Some of them win more national and international medals than those swimmers who have their limbs intact, yet remain in the oblivion. What is needed is exposure as well as sponsorship, which may ensure that they are on par with athletes from the other countries,” said Dabas.

The championship which has been held across the states like Gwalior, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore starting from the year 2000, has now entered its eight year in Pune.


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