The offer of the Virtual Cricket event came at a time when the Rajasthan Athlete Chiranjeev Mathur and his family, all of them, had tested positive for Covid. The previous year had confined him to his house; with safety came boredom and inactivity. The second wave of Covid felt dangerous but Chiranjeev agreed happily to participate. His two siblings, both younger than him, perked up to keep tabs on the count, timing, equipment etc. It bound them all in a thrilling engagement, apart from ‘Carrom’ that they often play. Chiranjeev would often refuse to wear his mask. He would object. But Cricket re-directed his attention and with it came a comfortable and a positive attitude. He focussed on the skills, following the Covid safety precautions.
Chiranjeev, 22 yrs, hails from Ajmer in Rajasthan. His father is a Physical Education teacher in a Government School and his mother a homemaker. He has a learning disability that was diagnosed as his delayed milestones began to show. He went to a mainstream school for 5 years with a dedicated special educator but then was advised to join a special school. He takes his Sports training from Mr Bhagwan Sahai from Meenu Manovikas Kendra, Ajmer. Apart from sports he likes to take care of plants in his home and helps his mother in keeping his house clean. In sports he has participated in Bocce going up to the State level.
“Had it not been for sports, we would not have known his abilities”. Says Mr Gaurav Mathur, his father. “Practising for the virtual event became a family activity every evening. He concentrated and learnt everything on his own. He never pays as much attention to anything else. Sports has taught him discipline and has helped him develop. Chiranjeev, and so many others like him, need exposure and support. We have taken him everywhere. Anyplace where we felt he was not welcome, none of us would go there.”
On the day of the event, he was very excited saying that he will win a medal, says his Coach.
“This event was a challenge for the Athletes, families and for Coaches. The lockdown prevented us to visit the families even once, to explain the event. But as we got motivated seeing the demo videos and video calls, we passed it on to the Athletes and the families as well. It brought innovation in sports.” – Says Mr Bhagwan, as he profusely thanks the Sports department for rolling out a model that can be replicated at local and state levels as well. Bhagwan has been a Coach with the Rajasthan Chapter since 2000, having reached out to Sarva Shiksha Abhyaan (SSA) Schools , institutions in several districts at a time when sports as a development platform was an unfamiliar concept altogether.
“It was an interesting journey and a new learning for us too. The first Zoom meeting was held for a state selection of the 8 Athletes and this was followed by Mr. Bhagwan Sahai, our state sports director taking the lead to train them. We thank Special Olympics Bharat and ESPN, for providing a platform to the athletes that continued to keep them occupied and happy during these trying times” – Mr UK Pandey, Area Director, SO Bharat Rajasthan