It irks Kumar Manikandan when people assume that he had an unhappy childhood. “So what if I grew up in a slum? So what if I am polio affected? Does that automatically mean that I was unhappy growing up?” asks the champion climber who won gold at the Paraclimbing World Championship in Paris this September.
“I was happy then and I am happy now,” he declares. According to Mr. Manikandan, the secret to his success in life has been that he has never allowed negative thinking to get to him. “Before I got into climbing, I wanted to be a mechanic. I would have been happy even then.”
Speaking to The Hindu ahead of International Day of Persons with Disabilities, he says, “I never thought of myself as disabled.” There is no reason why he should. After all, he is ranked among the top 10 competitive climbers in India. He is the only person with a “disability” in this elite group of athletes.
What is more, he has coached eight fully able athletes who have gone on to become national champions.
‘Chase your passion’
In a message to people with disabilities he says, “Don’t be insecure about your future. Most people tend to settle for mundane jobs because it’s the safe thing to do. Chase your passion.”
He points out that success did not come easy for him. Despite financial difficulties, physical disability as well poor infrastructure, he has stuck to the sport since 2006.
Calling on persons with disabilities to approach him, he says that he will coach them in climbing. “I will be more than happy to help. But disabled people rarely think of climbing as an option. It is a tough sport but not impossible,” he says.
For now, he has a new goal. “Climbing is going to be included as a discipline in the 2020 Olympics. Along with some other coaches and climbers, I am busy preparing a world-class climbing team from India,” he says.