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Interview with Arunima Sinha: The first female amputee to climb Mount Everest

Full of optimism and spirit, she talks about her struggles, dreams, and journey so far in an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda.

‘If you have determination, you can reach greater heights’

Beating all odds, differently-abled Indian athletes have never failed to make us proud. Sadly, the world worries about them, more than they do.

Para-athletes are reaching a place of being looked up to by able-bodied people. Their performances have improved considerably in the last decade and their achievements are equally desirable.

We all dream of doing many things but never end up doing those. But some people, despite their disabilities, remind us that there is nothing in this world that cannot be done. Sky is the limit for them and this story sums it up best.

Arunima Sinha, a national level volleyball player from Uttar Pradesh, tragically lost one of her legs when a gang of thieves pushed her out of the moving Padmawati Express train for refusing to give her gold chain. Lying helpless on the tracks, another train ran over her leg.

Two years later, this Padma Shri awardee became the first female amputee to reach the top of the world - Mt. Everest.

Arunima Sinha has broken all stereotypes and succeeded in making us realize that what women believes, women can achieve. Full of optimism and spirit, she talks about  her struggles, dreams, and journey so far in an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda:

How did you get into volleyball?

I was into sports from my childhood. I used to run a lot earlier but my speed has reduced now. I have been cycling from a very early age, used to play football and represented my state in volleyball. 

But sports took a backseat after my graduation.

What do you remember about your volleyball career?

Volleyball made what I am today. Since volleyball has no career in India, I was alone and did not have a team to practice with. The selectors asked me to play with the boy's team and they were very happy with my performance. I was selected in the Nationals after that.

I never got any support from the Government and the UP team did not have a proper uniform as well. Everyone had different tracksuits and people used to laugh at us for that.

What went through your mind when you were at the hospital after your accident?

I kept screaming in pain before finally passing out. When I finally woke up, I was helpless. I thought I won't be able to walk again. My elbow was fractured. The amputation of both my legs left me shattered. 

As I lay in the OT, a dog started feasting on the leg that had just been removed. Not just that, outside, I was facing a lot of condemnation even though I was the victim. I was tired of convincing people that I didn’t attempt suicide.

I was scared.

Whom do you blame for the accident?

I don't blame anyone. Sadly, on that day, the compartment was full of people, but no one came forward to rescue a girl being attacked. Why are people so silent when something like this happens in front of them and super active on Facebook? The society is at fault. 

Even today, if I see something wrong happening, I will fight. And I want people to fight too.

Who inspired you to scale Mount Everest?

. ‘I never looked back after that’

I am a sportsperson and I wasn’t happy that everyone was looking at me with such pity in their eyes. I was inspired by an article in a newspaper and I decided right then that I wanted to climb Mt. Everest.

I was inspired by a lot by Yuvraj Singh and Swami Vivekananda.

Was it an easy decision for you to make? How did your family react to it?

Considering how I almost lost my life, I decided to take up this challenge. Also, if you have determination, you can reach greater heights. When I heard that no one in the world has climbed Mt. Everest with a prosthetic leg,  I realised I could still do something with my life.

The whole journey became a lot easier because of the support that my family gave me. I met Bachendri Pal and she advised me to do a basic course from the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering. I never looked back after that.

You have such an inspirational story. What is the most rewarding moment of your life?

So, on 21st May 2013, I reached the Everest peak. I erected the flag of India and deposited some pictures of my idol Swami Vivekananda next to it. That was the happiest moment of my life. But the most rewarding moment happened after I returned home.

My mom hugged me and said, 'Tu meri beti nahi, beta hain'. She is my biggest strength and I will never forget that moment in my life.

Three things the mountains can teach us.

1) The mountains of your life are out there. You are climbing them right now.
2) No matter how fast/slow you go, you will reach your destination as long as you move.
3) Everything is possible now.

How do you stay motivated in life?

My amputated leg is my motivation. After I defeated the hospital bed and wheelchair, I knew I can achieve everything in life.

Life after Padma Shri.

‘It is a big achievement for me’

My life has changed completely. It is a big achievement for me. When people add Padma Shri before my name, I feel proud. But my job is not done yet. Apni jaisi aur Arunima desh ko dena hain.

Tell us more about your Sports Academy.

My dream, is to make this Sports Academy a success. I started my organization to raise awareness about the challenges faced by the differently abled and in the process helping the differently-abled achieve their dreams.

Recently, my children participated in the Open Nationals and won 12 medals in badminton, volleyball, etc. 

My academy will soon be a university. There is a Research Centre in my Academy as well which provides prosthetic legs for free of cost. I know, it will be the best Research Centre in the world in the near future.

Any advice you want to pass on to the youths of this country.

The youths of this country have no goals. They should focus on their goals.

'Aisa laksh decide karo, ki uparwaala dene ke liye majboor ho jaaye'. 

Even today, I decide my goal and then work on it. I have already scaled 5 of the 7 highest peaks of the world. My dream is to conquer the highest peaks of each of the 7 continents.

A positive attitude, will power, and determination can make a huge difference to your life. We're proud of you, Arunima.

Moral of the story: Where there's a will, there's a way.

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