Taking on the Odds
Shikha Rani- SO Bharat-Himachal Pradesh Figure Skating
It is surprising to see Shikha, 23 yrs of age, thread a needle, or play bocce ,skate or dance. Perhaps it could’ve been hard to imagine her even walk with the perfect balance. She was born without fingers and toes along with facial distortions , impaired speech and having mild intellectual disabilities. Born into a poor family ,they felt it best to place her under Special Care.
Thus began her journey through Prem Ashram, a special residential school in Una , Himachal Pradesh and Special Olympics Bharat. She stayed in the school for 15 years. She joined SO Bharat in 2005 trying Bocce and Athletics before coming finally to Skating. Shikha kept pushing herself, fighting her physical condition. She kept silent about her longing to see her parents often, something that never happend. Today, she has completed her schooling and stays with her parents sharing the burden of home chores with her mother and simultaneously enhancing her sporting skills . To support her and contribute to this change is a group of persons, Special Educators, Occupational Therapists, Special Olympics Coaches and more. She is also a keen dancer, particpating in cultural programs in the school regularly
Sister Vincy , the Principal Prem Ashram : Her life is transformed. The Special Olympics Camps gave her the confidence, gave her opportunities to interact with peers . Earlier, she looked helpless , often trying to hide her face and even her hands and feet. Now, she talks about sports about her practise sessions, her progress. Her family accepts her. She is great support for them.
Ravi Kumar , Coach with SO Bharat since 2004, mentored Shikha through her sporting achievements. He started her with Bocce where he observed that despite her hands being fingerless ,they did cup perfectly to grip the ball. Shikha won a Gold at a Bocce Championship held in Solan, HP the same year. Then Ravi guided her to Athletics starting with a short range of 75m run, where too she won a Gold at the Games for persons with Disabilities held in Bishop Cotton School in Shimla. She was unable to run longer distances, and that proded her Coach to see other and higher options for her.
Seeing her potential and ability to circumvent her physical condition , made him ambitious and he put her on to Roller skating. That required extra coaching, focussing on balance coordination and working on balance bars. She often fell, but gradually learnt to balance. In 2008 she participated at a Roller Skating training camp held in Hyderabad.She began with four wheeler skates moving her way up to the in liner wheeler skates that got her to Figure Skating.
Shikha is very sincere to her practises and is working very hard to be able to face international competitions. Ravi has her daily schedule fixed to 30 minutes of skating in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening, beginning mid-August . After November, as the snow falls in Shimla the plan is to take Shikha there for a more intense training of 15 days .
Ravi Kumar, SO Bharat Coach, “ Shikha has shown tremendous improvement in her behaviour that has come through the Camps she has attended. It gave me a chance to observe areas I had to work upon. This has made her mentally strong and physically fit. She even leads a program where she is a group leader telling others about Bocce and long jump. Through all the travel involved, she has grown to be self-reliant and confident. I am very hopeful that she will make it to the World Games”