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Making giant waves of a different kind in the pool

K. Raju
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My success in the National Paralympic Swimming Championship to be held in Bangalore from November 10 to 12 will not only change my life but also bring my family out of poverty and financial crisis, says A. Perumal, a native of Thirumangalam in Madurai district, who lost his hand in a factory accident.

Perumal is the third son of his parents, who are MGNREGS workers. He was the star swimmer of Madurai Kamaraj University till 2007 and a two-time champion. While working in a hydraulic press as a part-time worker to shoulder his family’s financial burden, he lost his hand in an accident but not his ambition and perseverance.

“My coach M. Vijayakumar consoled me and showed a new way of swimming,” says Perumal. This second spell in his sports career brightened when he won three medals – two gold medals and one silver medal – in the Masters’ Meet in Chennai. He competed with regular swimmers and emerged as winner in that event.

Now, he is strenuously preparing to bring more gold at the Bangalore event.

Another differently abled swimmer, who is creating waves in the pool, is P. Venkatesan. A native of Oddapatti village in Dharmapurai district, this postgraduate in education lost both his hands at the age of 10 when he caught a live electric wire. Later, he used his legs to eat, read books and also write his exams. Even before the accident, he was a swimmer and the loss of his limbs did not deter this passion. He uses his chin and neck to make his way through the water.

“Initially, it was the Sai Group of Institutions that recognised my talents and offered me a job and helped me in attaining my goal,” he says.

His talent came to light at the state-level meet held in Madurai. From there, his medal haul commenced.

He won the silver medal in the South India Swimming Competition in Chennai. Later, Venkatesan won two gold medals and one silver medal in a national event in Maharashtra.

In 2012, he clinched four gold medals in the individual national-level swimming meet in Chennai. Now, he is the swimming and athletic coach for the students at an aided school in Dharmapuri. A long and high jumper, his only need is artificial functional hands to take part in more events. He determines to repeat the Chennai feat again in Bangalore.

Like these two, there are 44 differently abled swimmers who are pinning their hopes on the national-level event to change their fortunes. They are all attending a residential coaching camp in Dindigul.

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