Rural Development Trust (RDT) through its Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) schools began the Special Olympics program in 2010 with the support offered by Special Olympics Bharat, in order to empower their special athletes and integrate them into society.
Three athletes, a boy and two girls, were all that RDT started with, for the coming of something that was never even thought of.
The path to social integration changed course in a catalytic series of events, as two of those athletes (the girls) represented Special Olympics Bharat at the Special Olympics World Games Athens 2011. They came back with 4 Special Olympics medals. This success at the world stage changed their lives for good. It encouraged other specially abled children, as numbers went to 11 that year and now as many as 34 have joined the program.
Of these 34 athletes, 13 athletes, 7 girls and 6 boys will represent India as part of a 200 strong Indian contingent at the Special Olympics World Games Los Angeles 2015 among 7000 participants representing over 170 participating countries. The RDT’s athletes of the Indian contingent comprise of N Lakshmi, Vani, Chandrashekhar and Ramachandra in Volleyball, Asifa and Uma Maheshwari for Basketball, shuttlers Balakrishna and Kullaima,
Powerlifters Erryswamy and Naresh participating, Aswini playing Handball, Sreelatha for Table Tennis and Footballer Sanjeeva Reddy.
RDT has constantly supported these athletes ever since they joined the program, they backed them with a team of 4 local coaches, 3 Spanish volunteers, 2 assisting and training them while 1 volunteer overseeing the nutrition and diet requirements based on the ailments or allergies in lines with the anti – doping rules and regulations.
He put them on a hyper-proteic diet as a preparation to their campaign. The team is not complete without RDT’s Special Olympics program manager Enric Romaguera.
These special athletes have been taking part in vocational training since November 2014, but with about a month to from the Special Olympics World Games 2015 at Los Angeles they discontinued it to concentrate solely on their respective disciplines.
However they continued with “Unified Sports” an RDT effort, where they were encouraged to train in one individual and one team game but since their selection for the World Games, they have been made to play with able-bodied individuals. Initially they struggled but now the results are astounding as the same athletes beat these normal individuals hands down. They are well accepted and their disability is barely noticed as a result of this.
Enric, the RDT’s Special Olympics program manager told us that “We are hoping the football, volleyball and handball athletes play well and get a chance to win a medal but they have to rely on their teams and there are a lot of competitive teams participating, however we are looking forward to see great performances from Kullaima, Balakrishna, Sree Latha, Erryswamy and Naresh. They have better chances at a medal”.
Anne Ferrer, co-founder of RDT while addressing the Press, athletes’ parents to bid these athletes an official farewell said “The athletes from RDT have been abroad earlier, this will be their fifth tour, after Athens, Korea, Barcelona and Australia. We want them to savour the atmosphere, go out and enjoy themselves and make the best of the opportunity they have, any medal they bag will only be an added bonus, another feather in our hat.”