The Covid challenges of being a para-athlete

‘No financial help received from anywhere,’ complains Shweta Sharma, an international para-athlete who specialises in shot put and javelin throw.

Shweta Sharma.
Shweta Sharma.

Differently-abled athletes and sportspersons are mired up in a truckload of trying circumstances — hefty travelling, boarding, meager financial support, negligible sponsorships make their lives challenging. The Covid-19 pandemic has only added up to their miseries. Considering the trials and tribulations faced by the speciallyabled sportspersons, The Daily Guardian spoke to various stakeholders to find out how they are dealing with the pandemic.

Harish Chaudhary, the State Secretary of Indian Cricket Team for Physically Challenged, points out that in developing nations like India, Nepal and Bangladesh, disabled players face myriad challenges. Explaining the matter, he said, “Travelling is particularly very tough for them. There is no such organisation in our country that can provide a lift to board them to bus or train. In India the federations for handicapped/disables are meant for formalities only, they don’t work seriously for them.”

“Many talented disabled players are ignored. There is no provision for proper training and infrastructure for them. Unlike the elite leagues like IPL and ISL, sponsors merely come forward to help them. These players have to manage all the necessary things independently but when their achievements come up, everyone joins them to take credit,” he added.

However, Shweta Sharma, an international para athlete, expressed that the Paralympic Committee of India is doing a commendable job amid Covid-19. “Giving online classes, so that players do not lose courage, and taking care of fitness while sitting at home are good signs. Fitness, yoga and meditation classes are conducted online to keep us fit and healthy,” she said.

On whether she has got any financial help from any sports federation, or Government of India during the lockdown, she said, “There is no such financial received from anywhere.”

Although, she appreciated the government and her federation for always taking care of her travelling, boarding, and lodging during the training and competitions.

“Differently-abled players need an extra person for personal care but unfortunately, nobody cares about that; we have to manage it independently. If we get such support we can exhibit better performances,” she pointed out.

 At the same time, Chimi Dema, a para-athlete from Bhutan, says that she has not been facing any financial stringency. “I am getting all kinds of support from various organisations and I am now solely focusing on my sport,” said Dema, who has not let the Covid-19 pandemic affect her training.

“I have my set goals and that is to make my country Bhutan proud. I am targeting a medal at the paralympics if I get a chance. Hence I have continued my practices at home,” revealed Dema, who trains in her backyard amid the lockdown.

 The writer is the Bureau Chief of ‘Himalini’. He is the founder of the Creative World Media Academy. He has written two books on media education.