Despite the first Monday of the World Games, ticking off all the cliches about dreariness, grayness and an overwhelmingly cloudy sky offering no sun, no rain or shine, the Indian contingent found their silver lining quite literally, with the first medals from this year’s event, won by T Vishal in powerlifting.
The 16 year old from Puducherry, won a silver in the Men’s squat (122.50kg), deadlift (155 kg), bench press (85 kg) and the combined to put India on the board at the Special Olympics World Games in Berlin.
Encouraged by his parents to participate in extracurriculars and sports, Vishal only really took to sport when watching the Paralympics Games. Immediately he asked his parents to find him a coach who could teach him the techniques and the essentials of the sport. Almost obsessed with it, he even scourged the Internet to find videos that would help him get better — to the point where his parents even wondered if this had become a dangerous obsession.
It was then that his father learnt about Special Olympics Bharat, and spoke to the coaches and director in the area asking if there was a way to inculcate him into the programme. Within the home though there was always resistance, his mother, a school teacher pressured by her own family to not readily accept that Vishal was a special needs athlete. She was unable to accept the condition of her son. Her being a teacher made the reality even harder to accept.
“Even now, when we discuss his results or talk to her about the fact that he is a special needs child there is often some resistance and emotion shown by her,” SO Bharat Puducherry Area Director Chitra Shah says. “We pushed her to not just embrace that but also let him come and play and enjoy sport within our programme. It would help him get better at it, while performing with his own peer group, as well as help him adjust socially.”
Vishal has delayed development and playing sports has hugely uplifted his own sense of identity, his coaches and Chitra say. Lifting massive weights — far beyond the abilities of a majority of the population — pushing the boundaries of his physical abilities has been key to helping him work with the world around him.
It is as though in a stroke Vishal was determined to showcase his capability to his mother, placing before her the 4 medals and the very first ones, that brought India on the leaderboard. And now, with a silver medal around his neck, it’s the world that needs adjustment — the first coming from his mother, who burst with glee and pride when informed of his achievement via phone from Berlin.