CHENNAI: Three people with disabilities (PwD) from the state are all set to showcase their judo skills to the world. Manoharan J, Vijayasanthi and M Susila will soon be flying out to South Africa for the Commonwealth Judo Championship. After smashing victories in the National Blind and Deaf Para Judo Championship, the trio will be climbing the international ladder of success along with two other Judo players from the country.
A valedictory function in their honour was organised on Monday, prior to their departure on April 20 .The event was conducted by Thozhan, and also Lit the Light that took care of the athletes’ finances. Radhakrishnan from Thozhan said, “Of the 5 athletes selected nationwide, three are from Tamil Nadu. This is a big achievement.”
From a poor family in Cholavaram, this youngster, who bagged gold in the National Blind and Deaf Para Judo Championship, has been practising for about six years now. “Friends, coaches and well-wishers helped me shape my career. Whether it’s buying a train ticket to get to a championship or managing my expenses, they always help,” says the 27-year-old. Manoharan, who finished Class 10 at a normal school (there was no facility for people with visual disability in his town), started practising karate when he was just 15. “With just our first grip, we can make out the opponent’s build, their height, and how far they are from us. Based on this, we fight,” he explains, and vows to keep fighting. “We will win in the Commonwealth and qualify for the Olympics as well. We will reach great heights,” he smiles.
A woman of few words, Vijayasanthi is shy and scratches her head blankly when asked a question. Little would you imagine that this 23-year-old is a gold medalist at the National Blind and Deaf Para Judo Championship. Encouraged by Manoharan, she opens up. “Initially, it was very tough. It took me a year to learn it properly. But now I’ve been doing it for four years and it feels good,” she says with just a hint of a smile. The B A history student at Queen Mary’s College practises for 3-4 hours a day. “We practised with those who are not visually challenged. They could guess our moves and it is really tough to fight them. But it made it easier to fight visually-challenged people like us.” This will be Vijayasanthi’s second trip abroad, having won the bronze at the Asian Para Games in South Korea in 2014.
“Initially, I was afraid of injuries and pain. But my goal was to win big. I kept this in mind, worked towards this and forgot the pain,” beams the 23-year-old. Hailing from Karur, Susila studied in a normal school till Class 10. She then came to Chennai and completed her graduation at Queen Mary’s. She is now doing a masters degree at SRM.
After winning two national medals in judo, she now says she has the confidence to tackle anything. “We know about 10 good judo techniques. We learn with other visually-challenged people, but when we practice, it’s with normal people,” she says. “There are many talented people like us, but they are unable to come to the limelight. I hope our victories will inspire them and also make it easier for them to be recognised.”
Coach behind tHE trio
The man instrumental behind the success of these players is S Umashankar, who coaches most of the professional judo players in the state. He explains how monumental it is for the country to have such competent PwD players. “Only 3% of the funds allocated for players in sports are given to differently-abled students,” he said. “They spar against non-disabled individuals, and can even beat them at the sport. Their instincts and reflexes have been fine-tuned so much. These players are from poor families and backing will go a long way for them.” Tamil Nadu Para Judo Association is awaiting government affiliation, after which PwDs can be given the same facilities as given to the regular players.