Outshining Master Swimmers

Varun Chand, 25yrs, Athlete of SO Bharat Telangana probably, does not understand his own strength that led him to a victory of three Gold medals one each in 50 Mtrs, 100 Mtrs and 200 Mtrs freestyle at the Indo Sri Lankan Master Swimmer’s Meet held from 3-6 March 2016 at Colombo, Sri Lanka. He won the medals in his category of 25-29 years. The event entailed participation of 220 Master Swimmers between ages 25 and 59 yrs from India and Sri Lanka. 20 Swimmers represented India, with Varun being the only participant with Special needs. Apart from a participant with Visual Impairment and Varun, rest all were mainstream Master Swimmers.

A regular swimmer at the Gachibowli Sports Complex, Telangana, Varun Chand qualified selection for the event, his first to rival the mainstream segment. Varun took to swimming at the age of four as therapy against Mild Autism and Moderate Mental Retardation. “He is a natural swimmer. He does not swim to compete. That is why he excels in free style. He does it out of habit.” Says his mother Ms. Aparna

Varun joined SO Bharat- Andhra Pradesh in 2009 keeping his focus on swimming. He participated in the Nationals the same year in Bombay winning a gold medal each in 25, 50 and 100 mtrs and in 2013 in Mandya winning2 silver and a Bronze in 50/100 and 200 mtrs . In 2013 he participated at the Special Olympics Asia Pacific Regional Games  and returned with a bronze in 50 mtrs freestyle. The spate of victories and appreciation made him happy . He liked getting appreciated, he loved getting a chocolate and loved getting photographed with his medals amidst cheers! He started to take the sport with intensity, following a strict regimen of practise, accompanied by his mother, most of the times.

“I will always be obliged to Special Olympics for this. Going for Camps has brought about a behavioural change in him. He listens to instructions. He has now, learnt to follow discipline, seeing his co-Athletes doing the same. His condition makes even all this, a daily challenge. Although this is a sports program, it lays the foundation for persons with Special Needs. He is a partner at the Organic Store that I run. This has been possible to a great extent through his participation at Special Olympics. It is not about Cash Awards or Medals it is about training in the fundamentals of life: the feeling of competition, the feeling to do better. That is why I respect Special Olympics”, said his mother.

His experience at the recently held Indo Sri Lankan event was unique, both, for himself as well as for his mother. He got an opportunity to interact closely with persons without Intellectual Disabilities and participate at an event which was different from Special Olympics. There were not as many volunteers and Coaches giving personal attention.

“He had to be constantly encouraged to swim more to complete all the laps in the various event categories. This is the special care that has to be taken, as they don’t understand like others. But, an event like this is true integration , wherein they are exposed to competition without individual care and learn to fend for themselves.”,says his mother.

Varun is a partner in Srivarsha organic store in Himayatnagar along with his mother Aparna where he on Saturdays and Sundays trying to enter product names and rates. Monday through Friday he goes to SAAKAAR production centre to learn data entry work. This journey of Varun from pleasure to a competitive swimmer helped Varun in other areas of his life also like understanding the products in his organic store, in his data entry work in SAAKAAR centre.

I have a vision where I see Varun to be dealing with the customers on his own. I can see him understand the complexities of business , the foundation of which has been laid by a desire to compete, at Special Olympics.

For now Varun opens his laptop and remembers his password which is appreciable improvement, observed by his mother who is constantly monitoring him.