Do what you can with what you have where you are. That's easier said than done. When the chips are down, people tend to write one off. But Varun Chand has crossed every hurdle and emerged a champion.

An autistic teenager, Varun has just won not one but three gold medals in swimming. In the national championship held at Mumbai from November 11 to 15, he emerged the winner among the 175 intellectually challenged participants in the free style and relay swimming competitions.

There is something rarer than ability - it is the ability to recognise ability. Right from the age of four, Varun has a yen for aquatics. But it was his doting mother, Aparna, who spotted this talent and encouraged him. Of course, this skill had to be further honed and perfected, and Victor R. Vaz, National Sports Director, Special Olympics Bharat (SOB) proved just the man for the job.

At SOB, year-long sports training is given to special children in various disciplines to introduce them mainstream and give a deeper meaning to their lives. “We look at the ability of children not their disabilities. We pick up children having IQ score of 70 and below”, says Mr Victor who is here to attend a medical camp being held for intellectually challenged children.

“I am a champion”. Aparna couldn't forget these words uttered by her son after winning the competition. She is thrilled by the demonstration of courage and sense of achievement he showed.

“There is a definite improvement in him. From a pleasure activity, swimming has become a competitive sport for him”, she says. Varun regularly takes part in the swimming events in Hyderabad. In 2005 he won a bronze medal at the Paralympics held at Kolkata. His disability notwithstanding, Varun takes special interest in computers and in the family's notebook making unit.

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