If you thought Delhiites are all about cricket and hockey, they’re not. For the first time in history, a group of differently-abled students in the city are set to show their skating skills on ice at Special Olympics World Winter Games this month.
Training for the last three months at Delhi’s ice skating rink, iSkate, these kids are confident about winning the international competition, being held in Korea from January 29 to February 5. “Hum jeet kar ayenge,” they say, as their smiles radiate the confidence.
From watching the sport on television to trying it for the first time and finally representing the country, the six skaters selected by Special Olympics Bharat, (National Sports Federation for intellectually disabled), have come a long way in three months. Raj Kumar, a 19-year-old from Paharganj, goes every day in the morning to help his father set up his stall on a footpath in Sadar Bazaar before reaching the rink in Gurgaon, where he practises for two-and-half hours rigorously. “All my friends are so proud of me. ‘Tu accha nikal gaya’, they say about me being selected for the competition. I am the first among them to be going abroad,” he says.
Ashish, another 19-year-old from the city, could not contain his joy at being confirmed for the competition. “He was earlier on standby, but ever since the day of his confirmation, he has made his entire family get up at six in the morning to get ready for the rehearsals,” says Ravi Dhillon, Ashish’s trainer. “I hope my new skills in speed skating would help me impress a girl,” adds the blushing speed skater.
It’s a pleasure to watch Simran Kalra, a 12-year-old figure skater, do the camel walk and other skate tricks to the music of Titanic. Though hearing-impaired, she is eager to interact and answer questions that we haven’t even asked. “I love hanging out with friends. Shopping for new dresses and eating chaat on the streets of Delhi is another love of mine,” she says through words and signs after the rehearsal. Considering that she did not even know about ice-skating three months ago, was the journey difficult? “No. It was easy,” she smiles. She has probably learned the art of smoothly skating across difficulties, just like her many other friends standing close.