But, this year, lack of funds came in the way of the visually-challenged judo champion’s participation in the world championship
It all happens in a split second: J. Manoharan crouches between the leg of his opponent and lifts him with his hips and hands and throws him down on the mat, landing him with a thud.
There are many variations of the ‘hip throw’ in Judo, and even seasoned practitioners struggle. For visually-challenged J. Manoharan, who has developed his Judo skills over the past year after being a Karate expert for nearly 14 years, the move is almost second nature.
The 25-year-old, who earns his living as a daily wage labourer lifting loads in the local market, has already won a silver medal in the National Judo Championship for the Blind in 2013.
The tall, dark and athletic Manoharan is 85 per cent visually challenged. He began losing his vision while studying in school and dropped out after completing class X. “It is a birth defect,” he says.
After winning a gold medal in the State Judo Championship for the Blind in 2012, he contested in the national-level competition, in the 66 kg category, held in Lucknow in February 2013.
Despite this, he could not compete in the World Judo Competition for the Blind held in Hungary this month because he was unable to mobilise funds. He nurtures hopes of making it to the Asian Judo Championships for the Blind next year.
“For 14 years, I practised Gojo-Ryu karate and gained a black belt. Then, one of my students referred me to S. Umashankar, the chief judo coach of Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu (SDAT). For the past year, I have been training at Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in Periamet,” says Mr. Manoharan. Travelling all the way from Sholavaram to Periamet is an arduous task. “Luckily, I have friends who are willing to accompany me to the stadium. They wait till my practice session gets over and then drop me home on their bikes,” he says.
The initial days of training were hard for Mr. Manoharan and his coach Mr. Umashankar. “I noticed Manoharan’s friend explaining the judo move to him and only then did I realise he was visually challenged. After that, I had to make him feel the move and then demonstrate it. But he picked up real fast,” says Mr. Umashankar.
Manoharan teaches judo free of cost to school children in his village, Sozhipalayam, near Sholavaram. His aim is to make the children fit and disciplined.