CHENNAI: J Manoharan is a man of his word. Before leaving for Port Elizabeth to take part in the Commonwealth Judo Championship, he had told City Express, “We will win in the Commonwealth and qualify for the Olympics too.” And just like he said, he bagged the bronze medal in the 73 kg category for people with visual disability in the competition held from April 23-28. What now remains is the selection for Olympics in Rio (Paralympic Games).
Along with him, M Susheela and R Vijayasanthi have bagged gold medals in their respective weight categories. Lit the Light, which mobilised funds for them through various channels, felicitated the trio on Sunday along with Thozhan, another NGO that volunteered for the cause.
Speaking to CE on the occasion, Manoharan said, “When you’re standing on the judo mat wearing your country’s jersey and the identity of an Indian, it’s a really proud moment.” Adding that he was not too satisfied because he didn’t win the gold (he will win it next time, he assures), the 27-year-old says judo is the best thing that has happened to him. “Judo has given me the opportunity to move from a small village near Chennai to the international arena,” he says.
Barath Raj, who founded Lit the Light, narrates what an experience it was to raise funds. “After the announcement that the trio were selected, we had only two days. Initially it was tough, but thanks to kind-hearted people all around — there was even a sponsor from Canada — we were able to raise the required amount of `1.14 lakh per person,” he says (three players and one coach).
The three champions, who had earlier bagged national medals in the judo competitions, were doubtful of going. But once the funds flowed in and their trip was confirmed, they got down to practising with full josh, adds Barath.
Recalling his South African experience, Manoharan has only one word for it: amazing. “The food was all African food.The chicken, mutton and beef dishes were out of the world,” he laughs. Hopefully, Manoharan, Susheela and Vijayasanthi will get to taste the food in Rio, the venue of the Olympics, soon enough.
(Lit the Light works for the visually challenged to provide them education, scribes and other assistance.