Friday, July 19, 2024

Unearthing budding future stars in parasports

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Indians from throughout the nation will be glued to their televisions as the Paris Olympics approach in July, excitedly applauding the different athletes who will be representing their country on the biggest sporting stage in the world.
Few people are aware of the Paralympics, a set of international sporting events that take place in the host city just after the Olympics.
The Aditya Mehta Foundation (AMF), a Hyderabad-based organisation, works to assist individuals with disabilities in redefining their lives through participation in parasports, with the ultimate goal of competing in competitions such as the Paralympic Games.
Aditya Mehta, the organisation’s founder, founded it after losing his leg in a bus accident. Following the injury, Mehta developed a passion for cycling and placed second in the Asian Para-Cycling Championships.
Mehta came to the realisation that he wanted to assist other disabled people, like himself, who were less fortunate and unaware that they could be athletes, after participating in international competitions. Since its formal founding in 2014, AMF has won over 80 medals at the world level and has assisted over 100 para-athletes in reaching their full potential by offering them equipment and training.
At the JNV Ranga Reddy Campus in Gachibowli, from June 13 to 18, AMF, in collaboration with Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti, organised the National Parasports Talent Identification Hunt and Training Camp. The purpose of this competition was to find athletes to train for the 2025 Youth Asian Games and the Los Angeles Paralympics in 2028.
For the opening ceremony on the first day of the competition, more than 400 competitors and their coaches were seated in a big hall at JNV Ranga Reddy. The athletes attend JNV schools in the eight regions of India that comprise Shillong, Hyderabad, Bhopal, Patna, Pune, Chandigarh, Lucknow, and Jaipur.
During the opening address, chief guest Avinash Mohanty, Cyberabad Commissioner of Police, expressed his inspiration for all the athletes and their perseverance. “A camp like this is really a great opportunity for each one of you to put in your best effort and make use of the opportunity to get an opening in the forthcoming events and maybe make it to the national and international events,” he said while addressing the athletes. In his remarks, T. Gopalakrishna, the regional Hyderabad NVS deputy commissioner, reiterated the same feelings.
Actress Regina Cassandra attended the function as well, meeting with athletes and giving a statement. Cassandra has been associated with the AMF since 2014 and currently holds the positions of trustee and board member. She discussed her connection with AMF and how it has been her only source of inspiration in an interview with The Pioneer. “Aditya was someone you won’t forget when I met him. You’ll carry his imprint with you forever. He stands up for the people that need him,” Cassandra remarked. “After that, I got to know him and we went cycling and on some nighttime rides with some of my friends who are actors.”
The actress continued her speech by discussing her decision to commit herself to AMF. “It was crucial for me to know who I would be linked with if I wanted to be a part of an organisation. I was curious about the amount of labour they were willing to do. As soon as I began working with AMF, I was able to observe Mehta’s workload and his determination to see it through to completion. After all these years, looking back, it has truly paid off. Joining this organisation has been such a great adventure, so I’m extremely glad I did.”
Speaking about the occasion, Regina said that the training camp held particular meaning for her, as it was the first in which she was given a significant role. This was the first training camp where parathletics received a lot of attention; previous ones had occurred prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Two parathletes received recognition for their accomplishments during the inaugural tournament. Paracyclists Jyothi Gaderiya and Arshad Shaik, who both receive training from AMF, were called up to the qualifying stage in order to secure spots in the 2024 Paralympic Games and other international tournaments in which they had won medals.
Mehta anticipates that the organisation will be able to identify and nurture athletic talent for India during the tournament. He claims that he believes there is a lot of potential in the quantity of medals that the country can win!

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