An ardent cyclist, Arshel Akhter, is very passionate about the sport and has been trying to promote it in Guwahati. Cycling is amongst the lesser popular sports in the country. However, efforts of people like Arshel are changing the cycling scene in the country, one step at a time. Today, he shares the story of the 17-year-old boy, Abhishek Gogoi, who has qualified for the 2019 Special Olympics. He shares Abhishek's struggles with us and how he set aside cerebral palsy to get an opportunity to compete on an International level.
In an exclusive interaction with Sportskeeda, an excited Arshel tells us "I was recently named the Bicycle Mayor of Guwahati. There is an NGO called Ashadeep which told me about Abhishek just after a few days of my becoming Mayor. They told me about his love for cycling. I met Abhishek and also spoke to his mother," says an excited Arshel.
"I found out that Abhishek suffers from Cerebral Palsy since childhood. However, when he was born, he was a normal baby. He was diagnosed with neonatal jaundice and the doctors advised two blood transfusions. However, due to some reasons, only one was done and 8 months post his birth it was found out that he had Cerebral Palsy. It was also discovered later that he had more control over the lower part of the body than his upper part," adds Arshel, his tone becoming more serious now.
"There is very little control over his neck. Running and walking was never a problem for him. Doctors told his parents that Cerebral Palsy cannot be cured or reversed. The only thing they can do is ensure regular physiotherapy and make him take part in sports. Abhishek started playing cricket but he was very shy," explains Arshel.
Tragedy struck Abhishek again when his father passed away due to cancer when he was just 11. His father used to work as a private empanelled producer and director for commissioned programmes at Doordarshan and was the sole breadwinner for the family. After his father's demise, Abhishek's mother decided to shift to Guwahati, which was her hometown.
"When Abhishek settled in Guwahati, he befriended two boys of the same age group who were his neighbours. They used to play games together and he learned cycling with them, making him more confident. Shot-put and cricket were the two sports he fancied most. It was his cricket coach who suggested that he take up cycling more seriously as he has more control over his lower body," Arshel explained how Abhishek started cycling.
His mother works as an in charge of a day-care school which is not a high paying job. Due to financial problems, she could not afford a good cycle for him and he rode his coaches' cycle at the ‘Cycling NCC cum National Championship,’ which took place in Ranchi at the start of the year. His performance at the Championship was excellent and he managed to set a National Record of 19 minutes and 21 seconds, which is the 12th fastest timing in World for the 10km Individual Time Trial in the Special Olympics category.
This feat helped Abhishek qualify for the Summer Special Olympic Games to be held in Abu Dhabi in 2019. To prepare for the Games he has to attend a training camp at Rajasthan from mid June 2018.
However, for the training which is coming up in Rajasthan, Abhishek needs to have his own cycle. Arshel got know about the crowdfunding platform 'Ketto' as one of his friends had used it earlier. He too planned on starting a campaign for Abhishek on the platform. A cycling brand, with a showroom in Guwahati, has also promised to provide Abhishek with all the equipment at the bare minimum cost and may even sponsor some parts entirely.
Abhishek presently trains with a Mountain Bike (MTB) lent to him by the same cycle dealer in Guwahati. Arshel rode with him recently, and being an enthusiast himself he judged that he rides well and proper training will take him to places. "The training in Rajasthan can prove to be life-changing for him as there will be international coaches to guide him," says Arshel.
There are not too many events organized in the country for children with special needs. Only a few events are organized by Special Olympics Bharat, which is National Sports Federation accredited by Special Olympics International to conduct Special Olympics Programs in India.
Abhishek happens to be a very jolly guy, loves using WhatsApp to chat with his friends and people on his WhatsApp group for cycling, and even loves playing video games. Watching videos and editing videos are some of his other hobbies.
Besides this, Abhishek is very determined as well and follows a stringent routine, even waking up at 4 am in the morning to cycle for two hours, ending his day at the gym. Going to the gym has been helping him strengthen his muscles. Abhishek also got a tattoo made recently and is presently a student of commerce at IGNOU, Indira Gandhi National Open University, with plans of higher studies as well.
The 17-year-old is also an avid walker, helps out in doing household chores such as paying various bills. He acknowledges the fact that he would not be able to take up cycling professionally, yet he wants to reach the maximum possible height possible.
There are very few people like Abhishek who realize their passion. If he gets in the limelight then certainly a lot of others will be inspired and start believing in their dreams. An increase in support from us will also lead to an increase in following of the sport, therefore, I urge you to make a contribution for him.
Each patient who suffers from Cerebral Palsy has an individual set of problems, which need to be addressed individually. A little bit of support is all Abhishek needs to give him a push, enabling him to realize his dreams.