CHENNAI: With wheelchairs, crutches and loads of determination, 59 Tamil Nadu paralympic swimmers returned with 34 medals from the 14th National Paralympics Swimming Championship, which was held recently in Indore, Madhya Pradesh.
The winners, amid cheer and celebration by members of the Pudhu Vazhvu project, were given 26 gold, three silver and five bronze medals. The Tamil Nadu Paralympics Team stood fourth.
“We are very happy today. In 2010, there were no participants from Tamil Nadu in the paralympic games. But this year, we had over 200 aspirants out of which we chose the best,” said Madhavi Latha, general secretary, Paralympic Swimming Association of Tamil Nadu, who also won four gold medals in the S2 category of disability. “Pudhu Vazhvu helped us mobilise people from different districts and bring them together,” she added.
In all, 45 participants were sent by Pudhu Vazhvu, an initiative of the Tamil Nadu Government supported by The World Bank. Pudhu Vazhvu supported the team by identifying swimmers, besides arranging coaching camps, physiotherapy and travel, for them. “The participants are our pride, and have given an identity to the Pudhu Vazhvu project,” said Mythili Rajendran, project director, Pudhu Vazhvu. “The project has helped bring out the latent talent. The effort, however, is all theirs,” she added.
Their coach, Vijay Kumar, was highly appreciative of the determination of the participants, but expressed the need for better facilities and incentives for the participants. “Cash prizes, college admissions and such incentives will be a huge motivation for the participants. More coaches and training too are required to reach the international level. The pools charge for memberships for those above 16 years. It could be made free,” he felt.
Madhavi Lata, who took to swimming as a hydrotherapy treatment and later took up competitive swimming also hoped for more incentives to encourage the sport.