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Ability beyond disability

Having won several events in areas such as biking, swimming and javelin, paraplegic athlete Deepa Malik is now eyeing the London Olympics

education Updated: Jun 13, 2012 11:32 IST
Gauri Kohli
Gauri Kohli
Hindustan Times

She’s on a unique mission which she calls ‘ability beyond disability.’ Armed with her qualities of grit, determination, perseverance, accomplishment and passion, Deepa Malik is a fighter and a true champion. Despite being confined to a wheelchair due to paralysis, she has a plethora of achievements and victories to her credit in areas of biking, swimming and car rallying and in track and field events like shot put, javelin and discus throw. She has been representing India at both national and international platforms in the disabled categories.

Beating the odds
Paralysed below chest because of three repeated spinal cord tumour surgeries resulting in 190 stitches between shoulder blades, Malik, now 42, refused to give in to her physical limitations and followed her love for outdoor sports. “I did not take shelter in pills and counselling. I chose to explore the beauty of nature and pursue what I loved doing,” says Malik.

The first sportswoman to represent the country at the international level in her category of disability, what makes Malik’s records even more extraordinary is that she has no bladder or bowel control and has no sensation in her body below the chest level. Her body does not have proper temperature control, her gall bladder has been removed and her lungs inflate partially. But this does not deter her from being regular with her training schedule.

Family a great support
“I’m happy that I’m alive… disability is only a state of mind,” she says. With tremendous and unmatched support from her family, friends and trainers, Malik has successfully accomplished the mission of “erasing the wheelchair in everyone’s eyes.” Her husband, who is an army officer, her daughters and her coaches and trainers - Naval Singh and Prateek Gehlaut - have supported her at every step. Malik’s ability to convert every opportunity into an achievement is what makes her a woman of indomitable courage. Before she got paralysed 13 years ago, Malik was happily managing her home. Today, she’s an avid biker, swimmer, car rallyist and athlete. She also loves music and likes attending live concerts. “Disability has brought focus into my life,” she says. Malik also thanks the Paralympic Committee of India for its constant support.

Looking ahead
She also plans to start an academy for the differently-abled and wants to inspire wheelchair-bound women. Having won several competitions at the World Championships, Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, World Games, she is currently training for London Olympics 2012 under the aegis of Sports Authority of India as a core probable athlete. Having reached the zenith in areas of biking, swimming, and car rallying etc, she is now hoping to make the country proud if she secures a berth in the London Olympics. “Ending a journey at its highest point is my passion,” she adds.

Disability has brought focus into my life. My next aim is to make the country proud, if I secure a berth in the London Olympics. Ending a journey at its highest point is my passion — Deepa Malik

First Published: Jun 12, 2012 13:11 IST