Facing an opponent one cannot see is a tough proposition. However, 13-year-old Bulbul, who is visually impaired, says it hardly matters on the competition mat. A class 8 student of a government school in Pabra village of Hisar, Bulbul has travelled 200km to participate in the state-level Blind and Para Judo Championship in Gurgaon.
“It hardly matters whether you can see your opponent or not. It is just like any other sport — you just have to use your mind more than your eyes,” said Bulbul on Saturday morning, the first day of the tournament. She went on to win her first bout against Kareena of Sonepat.
The tournament is a three-day affair and is being held at Welfare Centre for Persons with Speech and Hearing Impairment from Saturday. It is organised by the district association.
Two each from the speech-impaired and blind categories of boys and girls will play the national tournament in Delhi later this year. Last time, Haryana won the event that was held in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh.
Bulbul’s uncle Sonu Kumar, who is accompanying her, said it has not been an easy journey for her so far. He said Bulbul, who is visually impaired since birth, was affected by her father’s death three years ago, but she is coming to terms with it now.
“Her aim is to touch the sky. She wants to become a national champion in judo,” Kumar, who is in the transport business, said.
Like Bulbul, each of the 126 participants from across Haryana in the tournament has a story of grit and determination to narrate. They hail from 10 different districts, but their goal is the same — to not get bogged by personal or professional hurdles.
Sanchit, a 21-year-old hearing impaired player from Gurgaon, stole the show on Saturday morning in the senior category as he knocked out Draupal, another athlete from the city.
“All you need is focus on the game. Problems will come and go,” Sanchit said after the win.
Opponents in this tournament hold each other throughout the bout. Coaches said they have to go the extra mile to train the differently abled persons in the nuances of the game as well as communication skills.
SP Singh Gill, the trainer at the host institute, said, “Extra effort is needed to train the players. They have to understand signs apart from just learning rules of the game.”
Referees also face a challenge. Mahender Singh, the referee for the tournament, said he guides the players through gestures and verbal commands when they unwittingly cross the boundary of the playing area.
Arjuna Award winner and judo champion, Yashpal Solanki, the chief guest, had an encouraging message for the participants. “It doesn’t matter what game you play. What is more important is how you play it and what goals you set,” he said.
Around 50 games across all categories were held on Saturday.