Stand­ing on own feat, para-ath­letes won’t give up

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - FRONT PAGE - Saurabh Dug­gal saurabh.dug­gal@hin­dus­tan­times.com

RO­HTAK/PANCHKULA/BALLABGARH: On a fate­ful Septem­ber evening in 2007, Amit Ku­mar Saroha’s life changed for­ever. A road ac­ci­dent left him with se­vere spinal in­juries, con­fin­ing the sturdy young­ster to a life on a wheel­chair. But Amit, a for­mer ju­nior na­tional hockey player, was not will­ing to let fate have the fi­nal say.

Amit soon found his call­ing in para-sports, short for ‘par­al­lel sports’ for peo­ple with dis­abil­ity. As he dished out a se­ries of medal win­ning per­for­mances in dis­cuss and club throw, in­clud­ing in in­ter­na­tional events, awards and ac­co­lades fol­lowed. His dis­abil­ity was no longer a bur­den and he was fi­nan­cially in­de­pen­dent.

Amit, 31, is now an as­sis­tant coach in the Haryana sports de­part­ment. The state awarded Rs 4 crore to him for his achieve­ments and in 2013, he was con­ferred the coun­try’s high­est sport­ing hon­our, the Ar­juna Award.

Across In­dia, para-sport has al­lowed hun­dreds of peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties to take con­trol of their lives, giv­ing them eco­nomic free­dom and re­spect in a so­ci­ety which gen­er­ally looks down on the phys­i­cally-chal­lenged.

Hardly recog­nised around a decade ago, state govern­ments are also ac­knowl­edg­ing the achieve­ments of para-ath­letes and re­ward­ing them with cash and jobs. “There was a time when dis­abled peo­ple were a bur­den on the fam­ily, but para-sports has changed all that. Now, the same fam­i­lies take pride in their achieve­ments. No longer are they de­pen­dent on their fam­i­lies. Rather, they are con­tribut­ing to the fam­ily’s in­come,” said Amit, who hails from Sonepat.

CON­TIN­UED ON P10

KARUN SHARMA/ HT PHOTO

Para-ath­letes at the Na­tional Para Ath­let­ics cham­pi­onship in Panchkula.

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