Win medals in handball, volleyball and roller skating event

Even as they tried to gesticulate their joy through a gamut of signs, language seemed irrelevant as the lit up faces and animated expressions said it all. For A.Sindhu Bhairavi (17) and M.Priya (15) of Asha Deepam School for Special Children, Crawford, were the cynosures of all eyes, as they brought home the bronze medals as part of the national women's handball squad at the recently concluded Special Olympics at Athens.

Both young women, diagnosed with mild mental retardation and severe hearing loss, were part of the 12-member squad that competed in the women's event introduced for the first time in the international sporting event for persons with intellectual disabilities. Through intervention and speech therapy, both students can communicate moderately.

According to Sr.Sabina, Director, Asha Deepam, support of the parents was integral to the performance of the girls. While Priya, the daughter of Murugayi and Mamudi, both construction workers, contributed to the victorious side as the goalkeeper, Sindhu, brought up by her grandmother Pappathi, managed to score a few goals. All three family members were part of the felicitation on Wednesday.

Teachers at the school opined that there was a noticeable development in concentration and motor skills of the athletes, subsequent to preparatory camps.

The girls were coached by V.Priyanka prior to regional and national competitions. Sr.Sabina credited Simpson Rajkumar, Secretary, Tamil Nadu Special Children Development Association, for introducing handball in the special children's sports meet, organised in the city annually. Regular participation in the local event helped the children to make it to the national squad.

Recounting their experiences, Sindhu is delighted of flying for the first time. “She was scared,” she chirps, pointing to Priya. “But I enjoyed myself. I did not sleep at all. I watched movies all through the journey.” Priya on the other hand relates how she made friends with athletes from other contingents. “They communicated to us through sign language. We also had plenty of ice-creams and chocolates.”

Five athletes from the Vidivilli Special School contingent, who have brought honours to the nation, are yet to reach the city. M.Chandrabose (17), has clinched two gold and one silver at the roller skating event. M.Shanthi (17), R.Praveena (17) and V.Karthikeyan (18) were part of the bronze winning volleyballs team while Harisrinivasan (17) bagged the silver as part of the men's handball team.