The real champs: Unmindful of their disability, these people have embraced sports

Sailash Kumar, 29, is a marathon athlete, cricketer and basketball player.

Written by Sumedha Sharma

Unmindful of their disability, these feisty young people have embraced sports and are bringing laurels not just to their city but also to the country.

Tech smart

Ajeya Raj, 27
National-level boccia (a precision ball sport) bronze winner.
In 2006, he met with a bike accident and lost control over his four limbs and was bedridden for two years. But he didn’t lose heart and decided to complete his graduation with flying colours.

How has sports changed your life?
Boccia is a very different sport which most people are not aware of because it was introduced only recently at the national level. Boccia is a precision ball sport specially designed for athletes with various disabilities. I played it at the nationals for the first time and bagged the bronze medal. That was the most special day of my life, I never thought of performing and achieving at the national level. It is very difficult to manage life with multiple disabilities, but now I feel empowered. This sport has given me new hope and confidence.

By the way
I am a great fan of technology and gadgets. I keep exploring new gizmos in the market. For others it is difficult to imagine how I manage all this without using my hands, but I find it easy and comfortable to operate phone with my mouth. Apart from, that I have tried mouth painting which was a wonderful experience. Colours have been very close to my heart right since childhood. I work as a social media in charge for the Chandigarh Spinal Rehab centre and I handle all media-related tasks.

In a hoop

Ashish Verma, 27
National-level basketball, cricket and table tennis player.
In 2014, he met with an accident and suffered a major spinal injury, which confined him to the wheelchair. In two years that followed, he lost his family support. Finally, he left his family and joined the spinal rehab centre in 2016. He says it has given him a golden chance to relive his life once again on his own terms.

How has sports changed your life?
The many sports I play have given me a new life, a chance to explore myself. After my accident, I completely lost myself because I was unable to do anything on my own. But rehab has given me new life, new opportunities and a career. I have won bronze twice in basketball at the national level. I had never thought of achieving this feat. I am very fond of cricket and table tennis too, and I am preparing for a tennis tournament these days. We practice every day in the evening and usually have matches on the weekends . Sports not only keep me fit but also help me deal with stress.

By the way
I am not really good at mixing up with people. But I love music, I am passionate about singing songs. Whenever I feel low, music boosts my spirits. I love tapping on different musical beats.

Socially skilled

Kumersen, 27
National-level shot put, javelin and throw ball player.
He always wanted to be a sports person and represent India at various national and international levels. In 2009, he met with an accident while working on a mobile tower, which caused major spinal damage. Life on wheelchair was a big hurdle but he fought like a true champion to come back and keep his sporting spirits high.

How has sports changed your life?
After my injury, I got into depression. I used to lock myself in a room because I could not accept the fact that I wouldn’t be able to play normally. Being on bed and wheelchair was killing me every second. I was also a burden for my family and felt helpless that I could not look after myself. After coming to rehab center, I regained confidence and started playing again. I am now training for javelin and shot put for upcoming tournaments at the national level.

By the way
I love interacting with people. I also enjoy listening to music and spending quality time with my friends. I usually make sure I record myself while playing a sport so that I can send the clippings to my coach who gives me feedback on how to hold the correct position, et al. I also study various techniques and tricks to shape myself besides watching various sports on YouTube.

The record maker

Sailash Kumar, 29
Marathon athlete, cricketer and basketball player.
In 2011, while playing football he suffered a minor spinal injury but due to inadequate medical facilities, less awareness and wrong treatment it turned into a major injury. Coming from a small village in Bihar, there was little hope for him until he came to the rehab centre.

How has sports changed your life?
Sports has transformed my life. I have traveled from 0 to 1 again learning how to build myself. I am the first Indian to hold a record in 21-km wheelchair race, clocking a time of 1hour, 44 minutes. I am a gold medalist in 100 meters, 200 meters and 400 meters. For me sports is like meditation, it takes me to another level. I have learned how to live life with discipline, positive attitude and build a felling of self respect. I wish to represent India at various levels and prove to people that there is nothing which can stop a person from following his dreams.

By the way
I want to dedicate the rest of my life for sports. I want to work for all those who never got a chance to see the world after their injury. I want to motive people to not lose hope . We can gift ourselves a new life, it’s not just sports, we are capable of doing other things as well.

Poet and player

Vidya kumari, 29
National-level athlete, basketball, table tennis and kabaddi player
In 2007, she met with an accident while riding a bicycle and lost movement in her legs. The field of sports, she says, has given her a second inning.

How has sports changed your life?
Suffering a spinal injury is a big challenge, especially if you are a woman, but I never gave up hope. I knew it was difficult but it was not impossible to continue my journey as a normal person. After joining the rehab, I started training which helped me to push myself to forget my past and focus on achieving my goals. I have participated in various events and bagged good positions. Whenever play, I am transported to another level where I forget all my pains and sorrows of life. Sports has given me a reason to live.

By the way
I love to writing short poems and songs. Whenever I am free, I grab my diary and pen down my thoughts, it’s the best way to express your emotions. Recently I took part in a fashion show, it was a dream-like experience.