The world saw them as a burden, but their determination and will to make a name for themselves has now the world queuing up to get a chance to lift them.
Meet the power lifters from Amritsar - Dolly, 21 and Shallu, 19 - who are special children from the local chapter of the All-India Pingalwara Society and now have international sporting recognition after their performance at the Special Olympics World Games Los Angeles 2015 held in the US city from July 25 to August 2. They go only by the first name.
At the event, Dolly bagged two bronze medals in power lifting including squat lifting and bench press, while Shallu bagged the gold medal in table tennis in the unified games. The girls competed in the 100-kg open weight category in LA and their 60-to-70-kg dead-lift ability made them qualify.
Grand welcome at Amritsar railway station
Grand welcome for Dolly (left) and Shallu (right) on their grand arrival at the Amritsar railway station, after doing India proud in the games. (Sameer Sehgal/HT Photo)
On their return to Amritsar, the district administration and members of the Pinglawara Association welcome the special athletes with fanfare and gusto. A special Dholi had been called in with All-India Pingalwara Charitable Society president Bibi Inderjit Kaur welcoming the young women. SDM Rajesh Sharma represented the administration.
The scale and the response from all concerned had the athletes in tears, with a special programme also organised at the Pingalwara Complex in their honour.
The journey to glory
By their power and unique ability, these two girls (who are mentally challenged), had to wage a long battle against prejudice and plain apathy, but with the help of officials from the Pingalwara society, they soldiered on.
Shallu being greeted by dear ones after her performance at the games. (Sameer Sehgal/HT Photo)
"They are two lucky daughters of our Pingalwara family who are carrying passports that, for the first time, carry Not known in the column for the mother and the father's name. The vision of the founder of the Pingalwara Society, Bhagat Puran Singh has been taken to new heights," said Pingalwara administrator colonel Darshan Singh Bawa (retd). "I had to be at my convincing best to convince the chief passport officer in Delhi to issue the athletes a passport," says the former army man.
Dolly and Shallu cut their teeth in their chosen sport at district-level competitions before their performance at the District Special Olympics (2013-14) had them qualifying them for the national meet in 2014-15 and now has the international event in mind.
However, bringing them to the international level wasn't easy, says Ranjeet Singh who came in as their coach at the request of special school principal Vijay Sharma made to Guru Nanak Dev College physical education department head Sukhdev Singh.
"Since their disability is in the range of 70%, the girls are very aggressive. I used their strength to make them good lifters. I employed affection, love, and humour to keep them motivated," said Ranjit Singh says, who trained them two hours a day for a month.