Braving the early morning chill and smog, hundreds of students lined up for the Salwan cross-country race at the Brar Square in Delhi Cantonment on Sunday.
The annual weekend competition not only provided a platform for the able bodied to showcase their athletic abilities, the differently abled too jostled for the top spots.
Mann Singh won the boys’ ‘intellectually challenged’ category. The teenager from Asha Kiran Home couldn’t express himself but his body language said it all. Eyes gleaming after winning gold, he said, “I have done it,” with a clenched fist.
Even after running over half-an-hour in undulating terrain --- the race was approximately 4km, he stayed enthusiastic. His teacher Dinesh Kumar Gupta interpreted that he wanted to show how quick he was, moving the arms vigourously.
The competition also gave an opportunity to Mann Singh’s teammate Kalyani to glide past her opponents in the girls’ category. Able to interact, she said it was a good race. “Accha lag raha hai (it feels good),” she said in broken Hindi.
At least 10 of the top 20 runners were from the Asha Kiran Home, which houses orphaned and differently-abled children.
Mann Singh and Kalyani take active part in extracurricular activities, and have shown special interest in sports. Kalyani is also preparing for the international Special Olympics event, her teacher added.
Vinod Oraon, who took part in the ‘visually challenged’ event, narrowly missed out on the first place but was excited over taking home a medal and goody bag. His passion for sports was evident. “My training was interrupted as I wasn’t well. I will do better the next time,” he said.
It wasn’t just the winners who enjoyed Sunday’s morning run. Milan Sharma of a government school was 44th in the under-18 boys but was excited about the event. “It was good fun to test my running abilities. Since I got just a week’s training, it’s a satisfying performance.”
The race had something for all participants to take home. Monika narrowly missed the podium in the under-18 girls section, but said it was a learning experience. “I need to improve my finishing,” she said, and hoped to do better in the upcoming Delhi state school track and field competition.
Besides Delhi, runners from Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand participated in the competition.