P. Balu has brought name and fame to his school, state and country as part of the medal-winning Indian floor hockey team in the Special Olympics
A. Jeyapal, founder and coordinator of the Bethshan Special School, is a happy man today. He has accomplished the challenging task of spotting the talent of a sportsman and grooming him properly. P. Balu, one of his students, is part of the silver medal-winning Indian floor hockey team at the Special Olympics World Winter Games 2013 in Pyeong Chang, South Korea.
He is the only Tamil Nadu player in the hockey squad. His remarkable sense of commitment and focus took him to this level. “Coach Isaac deserves appreciation for shaping Balu’s hockey skills,” says Jeyapal.
Till three years ago, Balu loaded sand on bullock carts in the Vaigai riverbed near Vilangudi. Even today, his friends come running to him to lead their rams to the fights.
“Balu’s father Pandi brought him here and briefed me about his abilities,” says Jeyapal. “We put him through our routine drills and found out that he never gets tired.”
Initially, Balu was groomed to become an athlete and he won the 100m dash in the district-level event organised by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports. But his ability to dodge the phalanx of rival players to strike the goal in a hockey friendly match revealed the potential in him, says Jeyapal.
His selection to the Tamil Nadu team was no surprise. Four players from the State were selected for the first of the three national camps. By the third camp, Balu was the only player from the state to qualify for the event.
“His physical strength amazes me, even now,” says Jeyapal. “Under freezing temperatures in Himachal Pradesh national camp, this boy never complained of chilly weather and was focussed on his game.”
Mentally challenged persons are grouped in different categories – mild, moderate, severe and profound. Balu falls in the mild category. He looks like any other normal person but finds it difficult to correlate things. But when it comes to work, he finishes the given task in no time and reports promptly. He makes himself available for the next job immediately with no sign of fatigue.
“Once trained,” says Jeyapal, “you cannot find better workers than the mentally challenged persons. Absolute adherence is their forte. There is no deviation. They are innocent and they don’t try to cheat you. They mean business. Well and truly they are gifted children.”