Govind D. Belgaumkar

MANGALORE: Unless carefully observed, it may be impossible to make out that the children taking a try at skating at Bejai Church hall at 4.30 p.m. on every Thursday are mentally challenged.

Although a few of them appear to be faster than their fellow skaters, they all look to be perfect till they stop skating and return to their natural postures.

Mahesh Kumar, the coach who trains them free of cost, states that a few of his students have won medals at the national-level Roller Skating Special Olympics, held at Hyderabad from September 14 to 19. This proves that the modern tag of “differently-abled” given to such boys is not an aberration. Royston Pinto, the country’s fastest skater among the special persons, is one of them. He got gold medals in 100 m, 300 m and 2X200 m relay skating, pairing up with Bangalore’s Manoj Kumar. Pinto hardly takes his eyes off the skating track. He will not release his hands from behind the back till his coach instructs him to.

Although unable to tell about the events in which he got medals quickly, he is eager to tell this world that he loves skating. His face brightens up on hearing the word “medal”. But, asked what else does he want to learn or what sports is he practising, he fails to respond.

Dhanya Rao is proud of the silver medal she got at Hyderabad. Asked about the medal she had won, she quickly pointed her finger at the whistle dangling round the neck of her master and said her prize was “similar” to that. Other medallists from Dakshina Kannada who bagged medals are: Pramila Pinto (one gold); Karthik (one silver); and Meenakshi (one silver and a bronze); and Arun Kumar (one bronze). Six of the nine, who took part in the Special Olympics were from Karnataka. In all, the State Olympians got five gold, seven silver and three bronze medals, according to Mr. Mahesh Kumar, the coach from Karnataka athletes.

The parents and guardians of these children tell many tales of how skating had contributed to their children’s personality. While Karthik looked very enthusiastic, Arun Kumar was less angry at the world and Dhanya Rao was showing all-round progress. Pinto manages things on his own. Among parents training under Mr. Mahesh Kumar is G. Suhasini, a housemaker from Maroli, whose all three children are mentally challenged.

She is thankful to Mr. Mahesh Kumar, who has sponsored the skates to her twins.