177 Special Olympics athletes gather for 4-day training camp in Noida
For 21-year-old Ankush Kumar, who has an intellectual disability and is speech-impaired, representing India at the 2023 Berlin Special Olympics World Games has not been an easy journey
For 21-year-old Ankush Kumar, who has an intellectual disability and is speech-impaired, representing India at the 2023 Berlin Special Olympics World Games has not been an easy journey. He has had to overcome family pressure, isolation and depression.
But today, he is one of the 177 athletes with intellectual disabilities from across India who have gathered at Noida’s Amity University for the preparatory camp for India’s participation in the Special Olympics World Summer Games which will be held in Berlin, Germany in June 2023.
Ankush, a resident of Sadatpur in Delhi, has been playing football and handball since the age of 12. However, it was only about four years back that he was able to convince his parents to let him follow his passion.
At 15, when Kumar was diagnosed with the disability, it took hours of counselling sessions for his parents to even accept that their child is different, said Kumar’s coach Ravinder Saini. Kumar was a student of Army Public School in Delhi where he met his coach.
“Ankush used to attend regular school but faced difficulties in academics. This had made him extremely depressed as he could not make many friends and I often saw him crying in school. However, he was always an overperformer on the field. His grasp on football and handball was exceptional. As I started training him, he started finding a purpose in sports and got better with time,” said Saini.
Timid at first, Ankush’s personality developed as he continued to play several inter-state and national tournaments of handball, said Saini.
“In 2019, his parents were finally convinced to let him play further. He also completed his Class 12 board exams during the same time. In 2021, he got selected to represent India at the Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023,” he added.
Ankush is now training at the four-day camp which began on Monday and will end on Saturday. The camp is supported by the Union ministry of youth affairs and sports and the Sports Authority of India.
Mallika Nadda, chairperson of Special Olympics Bharat, said that the camp aims to further hone the individual as well as competitive skills of the special athletes to finally face global competition.
“The World Games is an opportunity for the athletes to demonstrate ability, positivity, and confidence. The world gets to see the beauty of diversity and inclusion. The Special Olympics is a global inclusion movement using sport, health, education and leadership programs every day around the world to end discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities and empower them,” she said.