One thing that inspires fitness enthusiasts not to miss their training sessions is Shridhar Malagi pumping weights at Jairaj Gym in Tilakwadi.
While others sweat it out, Mr. Malagi seems to do it effortlessly and that too with just one hand. Doctors had amputated his left hand after he met with an accident.
Mr. Malagi visits the gym only to keep himself fit. His real prowess is seen in swimming. He is part of the State team that won several medals at the recent national para swimming event. He won five medals under various categories and plans to compete at the 2020 Paralympics.
Mr. Malagi remembers the fateful day when he lost his arm. He was returning home in Belagavi when his school auto met with an accident. Multiple visits to hospitals, before and after surgery, and many painful nights later, he returned to school. That was 12 years ago when he was in Class 1. “I was feeling down and out. We were poor and could not afford any special school. My father works as an assistant in a factory and mother a maid,” he told The Hindu . And then his swimming story began. Coach Umesh Kalaghatagi, who trains children at the JNMC swimming pool and the Rotary sports centre, spotted him at the edge of the pool, and asked him if he wanted to swim.
Mr. Malagi hesitantly said yes and brought his parents to meet the coach the next day.
“I have seldom missed my swimming classes since that day,” he says.
In his para swimming career of over five years he has won 27 medals at national events.
A similar inspiring story is that of Simran Gaundalkar who won two medals at the recent World Dwarf Games at Ontario in Canada. The 14-year-old girl has collected 24 medals at the national and international events.
Born with Achondroplasia, a genetic disorder that restricts growth and leads to dwarfism, she was ridiculed by neighbours and schoolmates. But her parents supported her and sent her to study in a normal school in Belagavi.
“Coach Kalaghatagi spotted me and initiated me into swimming. I never believed I would do it, but now I enjoy it,” she said. She has been training since she was in Class 2.
Zilla Panchayat CEO R. Ramachandran felicitated the swimmers on Monday. He promised all help to the swimmers and their coach Mr. Kalaghatagi.
“We will help them in their search for sponsors and try to provide them with other assistance,” he said.