Shining examples of resilience

Three judokas from Chennai hit gold at a recent national-level tournament for the blind. K. SARUMATHI on what makes their achievements special

Published - March 19, 2016 04:06 pm IST - Chennai:

R. Vijayalakshmi, J. Manoharan and M. Susheela have been selected for the Commonwealth Games. Photo: Special Arrangement

R. Vijayalakshmi, J. Manoharan and M. Susheela have been selected for the Commonwealth Games. Photo: Special Arrangement

Three vision-impaired judo players have made Chennai proud. At a recent national-level judo tournament for the blind that was conducted in Lucknow, R. Vijayalakshmi, M. Susheela and J. Manoharan bested the competition in their respective categories to win gold medals. They are also the only players from Tamil Nadu to be selected for the Commonwealth Games.

Vijayalakshmi was first introduced to the sport while she was in class XII.

“A camp was held in my school and I took part in it. But the biggest opportunity came when I joined QMC college in Chennai. I was selected for the Asian Para-games held in South Korea, where I won a bronze medal. This is my second gold at a national tournament for the blind. The first came in Goa.”

Vijayalakshmi began to train in judo as a four-year-old. Her aim is to win a gold medal in the Olympics .

Susheela has had to face many rejections in her life.

“I always wanted to participate in sports activities, but due to my impairment, I was never allowed to do so,” she says.

When she reached college, things started looking up. “I was picked up by my coach and my first match was in Delhi. I could not qualify as there was no one in my weight category. Then I played in Goa and got a gold medal and this time again in Lucknow, I received a gold medal.” Susheela wants her success to be an inspiration for others. She wants to help other girls like her excel in sports.

Vijayalakshmi and Susheela pursue B.Ed from SRM Uninersity; they are however quite efficient in balancing education and judo practice, which they don’t even miss for a single day. “We can’t travel for coaching every day. So we practise on our own at home. I wake up at 4 a.m. for practice; and then again in the evening after college. Every day, I spend at least 3 hours for this,” says Vijayalakshmi.

After completing Class X, Manoharan was working as a daily wage labourer, earning Rs.60 for 12 hours. But, he was not happy. Then having heard of a karate school in his neighbourhood, he joined.

He received a black belt and played at State-level tournaments.

“I have 85 per cent impairment but would fight with people with vision. But my Siddha doctor said I cannot develop further in this sport. He introduced me to my Judo coach and I have been training for five years,” says Manoharan.

In his first match in Lucknow, he won silver. He also participated in the Para-games in South Korea, where he won a bronze medal.

He was also selected for World Judo Championship, but could not participate due to lack of funding.

Manoharan travels twice a week from Sholavaram to SDAT, a distance of 30 km, for training. “I should thank my friends who pick up and drop me for training. Also, my old karate master pays for the travel.”

S. Umashankar, their coach, has been training students for over two decades. Though it is challenging to teach blind students, he says these students are more attentive.

“I have to teach them through oral instructions. For girls, I bring in other girl students with vision to help them. This makes them comfortable. With them, patience is key. In the end, they give you better results than normal students,” he says.

Along with Tamil Nadu Para-Judo Association, Umashankar has been trying to get sponsors to enable the three to represent the country in the Commonwealth Games.

To help, contact Umashankar at 98402 72711.

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