Starting off with only three, after Special Olympics Bharat(SOB) came knocking, trying to bring more athletes with special needs to participate in sport, thereby giving them the opportunity to integrate into society as “individuals” more than “children with intellectual disability” through the support of Rural Development Trust (RDT)s Community Based Research(CBR) team, number have shot upto 34.
2 of the first 3 went on to represent SPB at the Special Olympics World Games, Athens 2011 and came back with medals, thereby attracting more such athletes to be part of this initiative.
This time however, of the 34, 13 athletes were selected to represent SOB at the Special Olympics World Games, Los Angeles 2015 out of a 275 strong SOB contingent. Earlier the athletes participated only in athletics, this time however saw a variety of sports including Badminton, Table Tennis, Powerlifting, Volleyball, Basketball, Handball and Football. All the athletes had been through some strenuous training in a build up to the games, with sport specific coaches concentrating on each and every one of them.
This time the medal proceedings began with the powerlifters drawing first blood, with Madiga Erriswamy taking bronze in the 53kg Dead Lift Category, after that Pasupuleti Naresh quickly followed suit to taking a Silver in the 66kg Dead Lift category and later in the day finishing off with a Bronze for the Squat Category. After that it was Yelikeri Sreelatha taking silver in the Table-Tennis Women’s Singles. Our first of 3 Gold medals came from Nallabothu Balakrisna, our Badminton Men’s Singles contender, while Manthri Kulayamma registered a Bronze in her Badminton Women’s Singles category.
After this came the turn of the team sports initially with the Badminton athletes Balakrisna taking a silver for the men’s doubles and Kulayamma for bagging Gold for her women’s doubles and then Balakrisna and Kulayamma teaming - up to take silver for mixed doubles, later came Sreelatha with her gold for Table-Tennis mixed doubles. Later Neeruganti Lakshmi and Singamsetti Vani played their part in the women’s volleyball competition along with Boya Chandrasekar and Rokkarukala Ramachandra in the Men’s competitions helping the SOB teams to secure bronze medal respectively. Simultaneously, Aseefa and Umamaheshwari took another set of bronze in Women’s basketball.
The two athletes that missed stepping on the podium also put up a stellar show of their trade with Gudduvegala Aswani taking fourth place with her team in the Women’s Handball and Thatiparthy Sanjeevareddy with his Special Olympics Bharat Men’s Football team making a fifth place finish. The hard work of the athletes, their coaches and Spanish volunteers has paid off with 15 podium finishes and 17 medals from 13 RDT Special Olympic athletes, part of the 173 Special Olympic Bharat Medal tally, almost 10% of the total tally, is a remarkable achievement for us, seeing our athletes do so well, from here on, we could only get a little more greedy for medals jokes Enric Romaguera, co-ordinator of the RDT Special Olympics program.
All in all this has been a great experience in LA. One of the happy parents says “Nobody in our village has ever seen an aircraft, but here our children travel to such great stages only by aircraft, earlier our children were insignificant “nobodies” but now everyone from our place wants to come forth, just for a mere glimpse of them. We are now referred to as the parents of the children who went abroad.”