BENGALURU: It was the rigorous training in Salem and Bengaluru for Rio Paralympics high jump (T-42 event) gold medal winner T Mariyappan. With facilities not available that easily for Indian paralympians, it was help from former international athlete Satyanarayana here that ensured victory for the lad at the elite event. “This is not a victory only for me but for India. But I am particularly proud of the fact that he trained in Bengaluru also and I was able to help bring out the best in him,” Satyanarayana told Express from Rio.
“I had first seen him during the National Para Athletics Championship in 2013. Later, in 2015, I brought him to Bengaluru and set him up in a house near the Sree Kanteerava Stadium. Being near the stadium, he was able to train well. He used to run barefoot but had enough pace and could push his body with enormous power to jump above the pole,” he said.
Satyanarayana added that the boy’s family background is very humble. “I made sure he got Rs 10,000 every month for his expenses,” he recalled. After coming here, it was hard work that bore fruit. Mariyappan would begin his day at 5:30am and train for about three hours before going back to his room. After breakfast, he would come back to the stadium and study videos of past Paralympic performances, Satyanarayana reminisced. He would get back to the Stadium by 4:30pm and train till about 7:00.
Mere survival is challenge
The main challenges we face are the lack of awareness — among persons with disabilities, their families, and others — about what sports are even available for them to play. The next problem is inaccessible stadia and infrastructure. People think that we require separate spaces but with just a few changes, existing facilities can be used. That would also make the spaces inclusive. Non-availability of sporting equipment is another key challenge. Such equipment is not made in India and needs to be imported from abroad, making it very expensive. We need to have better trained coaches and technical officials. We also need more support from the government.
By Madhavi Latha, national para swimming champion & president, Wheelchair Basketball federation of India