India’s Para-Athletes Have to Overcome Systemic Neglect

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In a nation that celebrates the achievements of its athletes at various international sporting events, India’s para-athletes often find themselves navigating a harsh reality – a system that frequently neglects their needs. Despite facing monumental challenges, these athletes continue to impress on the international stage. India’s para-athletes have demonstrated incredible personal determination, securing over 100 medals at the Asian championship, a remarkable feat considering the limited support they receive from the government.

From the lack of adequate training infrastructure to crippling financial constraints, para-athletes in India face enormous odds in their pursuit of excellence. Their journey is marked by resilience and perseverance, as they fight against the odds stacked against them. Even India’s para-sport tournaments suffer from shoddy organization, further hampering the prospects of these dedicated athletes. A glaring example of this was seen in the abrupt relocation of the National Para-Athletics Championship in 2021, which was moved from Tamil Nadu to Karnataka just four days before the event, leaving athletes and organizers in disarray.

The Paralympic Committee of India, the nodal body responsible for para-sports in the country, has been plagued by controversy. In 2019, the sports ministry derecognized the body due to violations of the National Sports Code. Although reinstated a year later, the committee’s approach continues to lack the required vigor and dedication. As a result, most para-athletes are left to fend for themselves, with minimal institutional support.

One striking example is the case of Preeti Pal, a sprinter in the T35 category from Meerut, who narrowly missed two medals at the Hangzhou games. Preeti’s setback was primarily due to the unavailability of synthetic tracks for practice in her hometown, highlighting the dearth of necessary facilities. Suvarna Raj, who competed in discus and shot put (54kg category) in Hangzhou, made it to the top eight. However, her performance could have been greatly improved if she hadn’t been compelled to run from pillar to post to find a proper place to practice in Noida. These instances shed light on the critical need for accessible training infrastructure for para-athletes.

Moreover, there’s a notable shortage of specialized coaches capable of providing scientific interventions tailored to each para-athlete’s unique profile. The training and support required by para-athletes are distinct from those of able-bodied athletes, necessitating personalized strategies to harness their full potential. The sports ministry, allocated a substantial 3,397.32 crore in this year’s budget, must ensure that para-athletes receive a more proportional share of these resources. An enabling environment for these athletes would encompass accessible stadiums, substantial financial support for those representing the nation, and the right scientific interventions based on their individual needs. This comprehensive approach is the key to consistently breaking records and achieving excellence.

the success of India’s para-athletes on the international stage, despite the systemic neglect they face, is a testament to their unwavering determination and passion for their sports. The challenges they encounter, from inadequate facilities to a lack of institutional support, are significant roadblocks to their progress. To harness the immense potential of para-athletes, it is imperative that India’s sports authorities and the government take concrete steps to rectify these issues, ensuring that these remarkable athletes receive the resources and support they truly deserve. Only then can they continue to make their nation proud and consistently break records on the world stage.

 

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