Girisha holds forth on treatment of athletes with disabilities, his future plans
When high-jumper Girisha Hosanagara Nagarajegowda wanted to meet the Hassan Deputy Commissioner in the last week of July, he had to wait for a long time.
But when he visited Hassan on September 13 after winning the silver medal at the London Paralympics, he got a very different response. The district administration took the time to welcome him.
The former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda even came to Hassan to congratulate the silver medallist while on his way to Chikmagalur from Bangalore.
“The medal has brought all this change,” says Girisha, a native of Hosanagara village in Arkalgud taluk.
During his visit to Hassan, the athlete spoke to The Hindu.
Q.: There was an allegation that athletes from India were not treated properly in London. What was your experience?
A.: No, I had no such experience. It is true that a sportsperson made such comments. But as a sportsperson I concentrated only on sports and that’s why I won a medal. Moreover, the organisers provided facilities as per the guidelines of the International Paralympics Committee. There is no rule that every disabled athlete should get an escort. I am happy with the facilities we were provided.
Countries that did well in the Olympics may not have fared as well in the Paralympics. How do you view this?
It depends on training and attention given to people with disabilities. I have come to know that China has a very good sports policy. They identify talent at a young age and train them. There, fresh talent is encouraged to take part in international events. There is a lot of difference between India’s policy and China’s policy.
Are you happy with the support that sportspersons with disabilities get in India?
India treats both regular and sportspersons with disabilities equally. Union Sports Minister Ajay Maken announced a cash award on a par with Olympic medallists. Besides, he has assured me a Class 1 job with not less than a Rs. 40,000 monthly salary. The State government has also assured me the job of a senior coach. I will decide based on which job will help me continue my sports career.
A few days before leaving for London, the Hassan Deputy Commissioner had asked you to apply for the post of village accountant. How do you feel now?
That day, that was my situation. I had no regular income and I was badly in need of a job. I approached him and he suggested that. But today, because of my efforts, things have changed. I won the medal and my victory has brought all these changes.
What are your plans?
I will continue practising for future events. As of now, I have not yet thought of setting up an institute to train others. I don’t think I have grown to that extent. I will spend the money I received on training and other needs related to my next events.
Your message to young rural sportspersons...
I am also from a rural area. I could achieve this because of my hard work. If you work hard, you will also succeed. I feel my victory will serve as an inspiration for many people with disabilities.