Opportunities and Challenges in Training Special Athletes during COVID -19


To address challenges and opportunities for the Special Athletes during the Covid 19 lockdown period Special Olympics Bharat conducted a series of Webinars from 1-6 May 2020 in collaboration with the Sports Authority of India. All six days addressed a different topic presented by experts from specific fields. With an average attendance of over 300 from Bangladesh, Bahrain, India, Pakistan, Nepal, UAE,USA, Singapore & Sri Lanka the Webinars were successful in spreading awareness and enhancing sensitization across a diverse population.

1 May 2020– Intellectual Disability- Dr Amitav Mishra- General Secretary SO Bharat 

2 May 2020– Unified Sports- Mr Victor R Vaz – National Sports Director SO Bharat

3 May 2020 – Health-Dr Reena R Kumar – Regional Clinical Adviser- Special Smiles, SOAP

4 May 2020– Inclusion- Mr Dipak Natali – President & Managing Director, SOAP

5 May 2020 – Mental Health – Ms Chitra Shah – Director, Satya Special School, Puducherry (Area Director – SO Bharat Puducherry)

6 May 2020 – Creating Resources for Athletes- Ms Mukta Narain Thind – National Director- Organization Development SO Bharat

Each Session was of approx 45 mins, beginning with a PPT presentation by the Speaker , of about 30 mins, followed by a brief talk by an Athlete Leader sharing his thoughts on the ongoing global pandemic and how he/she keeps himself/herself engaged during this time. The Session concluded with a round of Q & A 

Intellectual Disability

On 1 May 2020, the webinar was led by Dr Amitav Mishra who addressed the subject of Intellectual Disability. He has been actively involved in clinical, teaching and research activities in the area of disability management and education since 1990. He is currently working as Professor at Indira Gandhi National Open University, New Delhi. Dr. Mishra graduated in the subject of mental retardation (BMR) with a gold medal from the National Institute for the Mentally Handicapped (Osmania University, Hyderabad)

His session was followed by an inspirational viewpoint of Sahil Singh.

Sahil , 23 yrs , with Downs Syndrome, is a member of the SO Bharat National Athlete Input Council from Lucknow UP. He was a Self-Advocate at the World Down Syndrome Day 2020 virtual event held in Geneva on the theme ‘We Decide’ on 20th March 2020 by the Down Syndrome International, as part of the 23rd session of the UN committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

View the presentation by Dr Amitav Mishra HERE

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Special Olympics Unified Sports

On 2 May 2020, the webinar was led by Mr Victor R Vaz, National Sports Director of SO Bharat. He addressed the subject of Unified Sports.

Mr Vaz has been a key figure in developing the Program as a National Federation and spreading it to across 31 states/UTs of the country. Having been a State level sportsman, his experience in the field of sports goes back a long way. Along with being awarded by the Department of social welfare, Govt. of Goa for the outstanding work towards development of sports for the disabled he has also received the Man of the year Award in 2004, the Sports Association of Journalist Award and the Sweekar Award.

His session was followed by a brief talk by Niren Patel, Athlete leader from Gujarat

Niren Patel , 32 yrs, is an Assistant Coach from Gujarat  and a Silver Medalist in Table Tennis at the SOAP Regional Games held in Australia in 2013. He is a Floor Hockey player as well and  an active member of the National Athlete Input Council. 

View the presentation by Mr Victor R Vaz HERE

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Key Issues & Health Challenges for People With IDD

On 3 May 2020, the webinar was led by Dr Reena R Kumar, Regional Clinical Adviser Special Smiles, Special Olympics Asia Pacific Region. She addressed the subject of Health Issues and Challenges from the perspective of Persons with Intellectual and Development Disabilities

Dr Reena is the Secretary, International Association of Disability & Oral Health, India Chapter. She is the National Coordinator IDA for Special Care Dentistry & the Faculty Adviser of the American Academy of Developmental Medicine & Dentistry .She has created year long sustainable access to oral health care for people with ID through DCI & IDA. Recipient of the Golasino Health Leadership Award from Special Olympics Asia Pacific in 2018 and the AADMD Educational Achievement Award at Chicago in 2016 for Outstanding Leadership & Service. She has extensive work in field of Special Care with emphasis on Sleep Medicine . 

Her session was followed by a brief talk by Rithik Hukku, Athlete leader from Rajasthan. Rithik 24 yrs, joined SO Bharat in 2004 after he was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. He is a passionate sportsperson with a keen interest in Cricket. He has represented SO Bharat in all the three South Asia Unified Cricket Tournament held between 2014 & 2017. he has been an active Athlete leader having participated in this capacity at the SO World Games 2015 , LA USA and the Global Youth Forum Baku, Azerbaijan in 2018.

View the presentation by Dr Reena Kumar HERE

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Special Olympics Inclusion

On 4 May 2020, the webinar was led by Mr Dipak Natali, President & Managing Director, Special Olympics Asia Pacific Region. He addressed the importance of Inclusion of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities.

While providing direct support to Special Olympics’ largest Program, Special Olympics Bharat, Dipak has worked with the Asia Pacific region’s 35 Programs in areas of leadership development, coach development, competition delivery, fundraising and communications. Dipak has a broad history with NGOs having worked for the UK’s largest disability charity Scope, Prince Charles’ youth development organization The Prince’s Trust, and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.

His session was followed by a brief talk by Siddhant Nath,  Athlete leader and the Administrative & Sports Asst at the SO Bharat National office . Siddhant  ,  26 yrs , is a colleague at the SO Bharat National Office Delhi since 2014. He participated in the Asia Pacific Regional Games 2013 in Athletics and was a Youth Ambassador at the Special Olympics World Summer Games 2011. He demonstrates exemplary leadership skills as a member of the National Youth Activation Committee

View the presentation by Mr Dipak Natali HERE

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Mental Health For Special Athletes

On 5May 2020, the webinar was led by Ms Chitra Shah, Founder Director of Satya Special School, Puducherry and Area Director- SO Bharat – Puducherry. She addressed the challenges & stress experienced during a crisis situation and ways of circumventing it

Chitra Shah is MSW and a Gold medalist from the Madras school of Social work, Chitra is passionate about changing lives of the people with disabilities (PWDs). With over 20  years of experience in the field of disability her vision to create awareness and change in the community to ensure inclusion of the excluded can be seen in action at Satya Special School and in her work.  She is the Founder Director of Satya Special School which caters to over 950 CWSNs in Puducherry.

She is also the Area Director for Special Olympics Bharath, Puducherry and is a part of various government committees both nationally and in the Union Territory of Puducherry.   She has won many awards nationally and at a state level, over the past few years.  Her research interest documents integral aspects of lives of persons with Intellectual disabilities

Her session was followed by a brief talk by Anil S,  Athlete leader from Puducherry . “Sports is not about winning or losing, it is about participation; that is where its actual power lies”. It is not a surprise that Anil from Puducherry, is one of the Athlete leaders who has been very articulate and active since November 2017. Having begun his sports journey with assisted walk, he has participated in Bocce, Softball and Table Tennis since he joined SO Bharat in 2006

View the presentation by Ms Chitra Shah HERE

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Creating Resources for Special Athletes

On 6 May 2020, the webinar was led by Ms Mukta Narain Thind, National Director- Organization Development, SO Bharat. She conducted a poll to understand the popular digital platforms to explore their utilization for maximum reach. Various available resources were presented to the viewers that could be utilized during the lockdown period and even later

Ms Mukta Narain Thind is the key strategic planner for all the initiatives undertaken by Special Olympics Bharat such as implementing the New Scheme for People With Disabilities, launched by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports. Project Unify and Unified Sports are few more key programs falling under her spectrum of activities. She has been successful in designing pragmatic plans to upgrade skills and expertise of multiple stakeholders of the National Program.

Her session was followed by a brief talk by Deepanshu Nath,  Athlete leader from Delhi . Deepanshu Nath, 17 yrs, is an Athlete leader from SO Bharat Delhi & an active Youth leader having partially anchored his first event in January this year alongside his Unified Partner. He has participated in Bocce and Roller Skating and also has participated in Figure Skating at the National level in February 2019. He was felicitated with the ‘Student of the Year’ Award in his school- MBCN ( Mata Bhagwanti Chaddha Niketan) at the Annual Day 2020. 

View the presentation by Ms Mukta Narain Thind HERE

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