Chennai

Athletes with intellectual disabilities shine at Paralympic meet 

The sprawling ground at the Institute of Mental Health in Kilpauk is now a training ground.

As early as 6 a.m. some of the intellectually-challenged residents can be seen jogging, running, doing warm-up exercises and playing some sport or the other.

From two competitive events held recently — one at state and the other at the district level — athletes with potential have been identified.

Thirteen intellectually-challenged residents took part in the 17th State Senior Para Athletics Championship organised by Tamil Nadu Paralympic Sports Association at Melakottaiyur, in March 2022. Out of them, nine ended up on the podium.

The Institute was runners-up in the championship title.

Their second success was at the district para-athletic and team sports tournament conducted in April 2022, where out of 58 participants 27 won medals.

“These are the individuals on medication. We shift them from the ‘home’ and they get better,” says P Poorna Chandrika, director of IMH. Sports has become a development tool for those with intellectual challenges.

She says they are seeing a lot of behavioural changes in the residents ever since they started taking up sports. Many are regularly hitting the ground for training.

This is a big boost for the Institute as this is the first time the residents are taking part in competitive sports outside the campus.

“Usually we have a sports meet once a year,” says Poorna.

It was Jothi Manikandan — employed as an accountant on contract basis at IMH, and a participant in the paracycling event at the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation World Games — who had pitched the idea of identifying and training residents.

The ground was cleared and prepared. Sponsors were invited. Simultaneously, residents had to be selected based on their stamina and endurance levels. During the training, there was generous supply of fresh juices and butter milk.

“We had to keep them hydrated and at the same time prepare them to compete with other teams,” says Dr J. Sangeetha, additional resident medical officer, IMH.

She says the received only 20 days of practice for the first meet, and given that, the results are hugely impressive.

Vijaysarathy G, treasurer of Tamil Nadu Paralympic Sports Association, offered support by training them.


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Printable version | Jun 27, 2022 12:19:00 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/athletes-with-intellectual-disabilitiesshine-at-paralympic-meet/article65442015.ece