Hindu is a picture of grace as she packs her sports gear for a rigorous practice session. The 17-year-old champion who has had many victories in sports for the challenged is now gearing up for the National Paralympics meet in Chennai. While the chirpy athlete, who idolises P T Usha, was born with a disability that makes walking a daunting task for her, she hasn’t let it stop her from following her dreams. Undeterred, she chose to learn the joy of running barefoot to realise her passion for athletics. She shares with us her inspirational journey.
Hindu was 11 years old when she first began conquering her physical disability. “Back then, I would take part in races just like everyone else. My friends would advise against it, they were afraid that I might get hurt. But I always liked challenges,” says the Class 11 student of Chennai school, Saidapet, in a matter-of-fact way. While her fascination with track events has seen her participate in school-level competitions, it also made her come to terms with a major obstacle: finding comfortable footwear.
Not somebody who gives up easily, she chose to prove her mettle, barefoot, under the guidance of her mentor, Dr M S Nagarajan, regional coordinator, Asia-Pacific Special Olympics.
Her fitness training involves strengthening upper body muscles and calf muscles. She undertook weekly exercise sessions on the treadmill for endurance.
According to Nagarajan, her positive attitude was her greatest strength during those testing times. “She never said ‘I am tired’. It was a painful period, but she was always motivated. ”
When Hindu began participating in State level meets, the sub junior national athletic championships in Bijapur in Karnataka in 2007 set the stage for her winning spree. Not only did she win three gold medals in 50 m, 100 m and Javelin, but she also followed it up with feats in the Para Athletics Championship and the International Sports and Talent Meet for the Challenged in 2008.
“I couldn’t believe it. I was extremely happy. It was my first victory,” she says.
But it hasn’t been an easy course. She narrates her experience in a state level meet in Aruppukottai in 2010. “As soon as they blew the whistle, I began running on the track. Halfway through the course, my feet started bleeding. I didn’t realise it was a serious injury, I just kept running. I realised I was badly hurt only after I crossed the finishing line,” she confides. Hindu clinched a gold medal in the 200 metre race.
Scorching the race tracks successfully in the Paralympic Southern State Sports meet for the Physically Challenged in 2009, the 2nd National Sports Meet for the Physically Challenged in 2009 and the recently held State Paralympic games in Salem, Hindu has steadily been grooming her physical prowess over the years.
Hindu believes that anyone can be a winner, if they have the courage. After all, her success story is testimony to that.