It was raining medals at Rural Development Trust as 13 athletes, who took part in the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles, (U.S.A.), returned home with three gold, five silver and nine bronze medals.
These ‘intellectually disabled children’ had been through strenuous training in the build up to the games with sport specific coaches concentrating on each of them. They won medals in weightlifting, table tennis, badminton, volleyball, basketball, football and handball.
Starting off with three children after Special Olympics Bharat (SOB) came knocking, RDT, through its Community-based Rehabilitation (CBR) team, has been trying to bring more athletes with ‘special’ needs to participate in sports and games.
“We want to give them the opportunity to integrate into society as “individuals” more than “children with intellectual disability,” says Anne Ferrer, RDT director.
Two of the first three children went on to represent India at the Special Olympics World Games, Athens, in 2011 and came back with medals thereby attracting more such athletes to be part of this initiative. The total number of children in RDT’s Special Olympic programme has now risen to 34.
The hard work of the athletes, their coaches and RDT’s Spanish volunteers has paid off with the 13 RDT athletes securing 17 medals of the total 173 at stake.
Says one happy parent: “Nobody in our village has ever seen an aircraft, but here our children had flown to USA . Earlier our children were insignificant “nobodies” but now everyone wants to take a glimpse of them. We are now referred to as the parents of the children who went abroad and achieved something special for the country.”