Winning Against All Odds
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Paralympics is a more of a personal win, as you go beyond what your body allows you to do requiring much more mental fortitude. Their accomplishment goes beyond everyone’s imagination. The Paralympics truly showcase the fact that you can achieve whatever you set your mind on. Entrepreneur spoke to our three well-deserving paralympic winners to part some lessons on overcoming challenges.
‘‘Took My Disability As A Challenge’’ - Varun Singh Bhati
During my school days, I used to play basketball and won several team competitions too. But, things did not turn out the way I had planned. I received polio attack at a very young age and due to which my left leg started getting numb. But without losing hope, I started a career in sports, with the support of my family. My friends never made me realize my disabilities and were always supportive.
I was spotted as a para-athlete while I was still a student at the St. Josephs School, Greater Noida. Later, I approached my friend Satyanarayan, who was a former athlete, to coach me. He had agreed immediately. Together as a team we overcame several hurdles. My first achievement was when I participated in Summer Paralympics 2012 in London, where I managed to cross 1.06m mark. I am currently supported by GoSports Foundation and train at the Sports Authority of India in Bangalore.”
Challenges and me
I like challenges from the very beginning. I took my disability as a challenge and because of that I am here.To reach at this level, I had practiced a lot and took special training. I find myself as the biggest challenge, which motivates me to work hard for the next level.
For me winning and losing is also a challenge. If I would have not lost, then I would not have been here today. So losing is also important, because it motivates you to win the next time.
It is important to set a goal. If you don’t have a goal in your life then you cannot achieve anything. Also be confident in life and take problems as a challenge to reach your goal.
‘‘Nothing Stands In Front Of Hard Work’’ - Devendra Jhajhariya
I was eight-years-old, when I got electrocuted and damaged my left hand, and had to get it amputated; it took me five months to recover. I was very disappointed and disheartened, but my mother stayed strong and encouraged me to go out and play with other kids. I was in 10th standard, when I started Javelin throw in my village, Ratnapura. I soon became the district champion, where I participated with normal children.
This feeling brought confidence; it was like winning a gold medal in itself. As time passed, my love for the sport also increased and I started playing it at college level. In 2002, I won my first International
gold medal, in the first Summer Paralympic Games in South Korea, where I set my first world record of 59.77m.
In 2004 in Athens, I represented India and won gold medal again breaking my own record, to set a new world record of 62.15m. Further in 2013, I participated at the IPC Athletics World Championships in Lyone, France, and again won gold medal to become first Indian para-athlete to win a World Championship.
Then in 2014 and 2015, I won silver medal in Asian Para Games in Incheon, South Korea, and in IPC Athletics World Championship, Doha, respectively. In 2016, I won Gold medal at the IPC Athletics Asia-Oceania Championship in Dubai. And finally, with a new world-record throw of 63.97 metres, I won the gold medal in Summer Paralympics 2016, in Rio de Janeiro.
How I overcome challenges
Whatever work you choose to do, will have few difficulties. You will have to labor hard to achieve your goal, says the yellow-medal winner adding, “It was not easy for me to achieve this goal but I practiced hard and took training and guidance. I am blessed to have one hand at least, I feel better and motivated every time I come across people with different disabilities.
Initially, I did not have equipments needed for the practicing, but I did not lose hope and carved a spear out of a bamboo and started practicing. According to me, nothing stands in front of hard work.
All through my life, I received feedback, both encouraging and discouraging. Many people had doubted me, because of my disability. On the other hand, many others believed that I would definitely
achieve my goal. I took this as a challenge and this helped me in keeping my mind positive and motivated.
Initially, I practiced with my brother and I used to win every time. He once asked me how I mange to win every time? I told him, because I was mentally prepared and he was not. This motivated me further.
‘‘Look Out For Solutions’’ - Deepa Malik
I feel, I live life more than a normal human being and there are many factors which saved me from being differently-abled. When I was told that the disability is about to come, I never lost hope. I went through a similar phase, as a child. For three years, I was under treatment for tumor surgery and even went to a rehab, between the age of five and eight years. And, I had recovered from that. This time, I knew it was going to take two to three years time to recover. At that point, my husband was at the (kargil) war, and I knew I had to take care of my two children and me, all by myself. My elder daughter was in rehab too, and I was fully in charge of her.
Motherhood did not give me an option, I had to be brave and take charge of the situation and it made me more determined. The second thing which kept me going was the habit of preparing. Factors which brought me where I am today are, qualities like learning, adapting and looking for solutions. I took the initiative and to understand the problem and its consequences.
What were the things that required to be done, when I am not able to walk again? How I need to prepare? And, all this ahead of the surgery. . I drew inspiration from the soldiers, who were lying by my side in hospital, fighting a war for us.To keep myself positive, I keep negative people away from myself.
I am really glad that I took that decision. I try to look ahead and learn from the past or compare how good I am from the yesterday. Each day has something that can make us happy. Biking, adventure, being outdoors makes me feel alive.
In 2015, I participated in the qualifying round in Paralympics in Doha. I stood seventh with 3.67m mark. It was a tough fight and I had to compete with another Indian athlete for a single slot. I had medical issues and family responsibility too, for which I redesigned my training program; there was a target ahead me to reach Rio. I knew that during training, I needed 24X7 help but usually the trainers would be there for hardly three hours. While weightlifting or exercising, the pus increased in my body and that needed to be rinsed every hour. I had to follow a strict diet plan. And I cut off myself from social media and social life to balance my sleep hours.
Self disciplinary means a lonely life. My husband took a sabbatical and supported me throughout this journey of Paralympics. I had to train very hard in the gym to increase muscle in the upper body, which was followed by ice bag and hot bag sessions. Then someone had to supervise the diet. Practically, my husband took over many roles; he became the coach and also administrator of the house.
Roles played by my daughters
They took over the house completely: one was handling my social media and official works and other one was taking care of the house. All the paper works were handled by them. I just concentrated on the game. I prepared myself for Paralympics and I feel I chose to do it at the right time and age, because people usually choose to give up everything.
Winning and losing
To me winning and losing is all about how much effort you have put. The only difference between a winner and a loser is that ultimate focus and the level of hard work. Losing should always be a source of encouragement and and not a reason to be demoralized.
(This article was first published in the November issue of Entrepreneur Magazine )