Given the fact that he is autistic, it was a stunning performance by Varun, who won bronze in the 50-m freestyle in the Special Olympics 2013 Asia-Pacific Games in New Castle (Australia)

Grit and determination, complemented by support from dear and near ones, can help one transgress barriers, however tough they are. Meet Varun Chand Vemuganti, 23, who showed admirable spirit to overcome challenges in the pool and came home with a bronze in the 50-m freestyle, clocking 1 minute and 53.18 seconds.

Varun was the lone ranger from Andhra Pradesh in the just-concluded Special Olympics 2013 Asia-Pacific Games in New Castle (Australia). Without doubt, it was a stellar performance by the Hyderabadi, given the fact that he is autistic (a pervasive developmental disorder characterized by severe deficits in social interaction and communication).

For Varun, winning medals is a habit. He had bagged three gold in the Mumbai National Games (Special Olympics) in 100-m, 50-m and 25-m freestyle events in 2009, and this October, he won two silver and a bronze.

Thanks to his mother Aparna and father V. Naveen Chand, an IPS officer, Varun can now dream big. “Honestly, we never thought he would be competing one day at this level and win medals when we took him to swimming at the age of four, as it was the best form of therapy,” recalls the proud mother.

In fact, she took special permission to be with Varun during the Asia-Pacific Games, in which he came with a third-place finish. More than winning, Varun’s family seems to have imbibed the Olympic spirit of participation and the vital message that given the right platform and encouragement, special children, too, can perform well.

“We badly need temperature-controlled pools, separate lanes and special hours for the differently-challenged swimmers as in other countries. If these swimmers are taken care of by coaches, there are many like Varun who can bring laurels to the country,” points out Aparna.

“We are all glad that aquatics provide the best platform for Varun to showcase his talent. His next goal is to win a medal in the 2015 World Summer Games in Los Angeles, for which he is almost assured of a place to represent India by virtue of his performances in the last Nationals,” says the delighted mother.

The mother-son duo is not just content with producing results in aquatics. They also combine forces to work at their own 24 Letter Mantra Organic Foods franchise in the city.

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