Rohit Kanwal, 24 yrs, Athlete from the Almora district of Uttrakhand , used to often reach school very late because on the way he would get caught by passers-by who would bully him, crack jokes on him and laugh at the way he looked and spoke. On his way to school he often faced the ordeal. His parents are poor. His father works in a small grocery store while his mother at the agricultural fields. They used to keep too busy to take care of these episodes, even if they had knowledge of them. Rohit was not so compliant at home; his family would feel relieved that he had left for school.
This is not restricted to Rohit only, it is a life that follows many other Athletes, as explained by Mr Bhupender Singh Bisht, a teacher from the Mangaldeep Vidya Mandir Special School Almora and an SO Bharat Coach mentoring Rohit. Rohit gets respite as he enters his school and meets his Coach. Through his Coach he has participated across several sports, including,
handball, Athletics, floorball, football, badminton, floor hockey and Power lifting. Owing to his sporting achievements he was felicitated with a State level award for sports on 3 Dec 2020. He was beside himself on receiving the award. His photo emerged in the newspaper, and he went around showing the clipping to as many people as he could.
Rohit was very excited to participate in the virtual Cricket event. He practised a lot but habitually would switch between left and right hands, and that impacted the skill. Bhupender kept that in mind while overseeing the practises. Overall, excepting the ball-tapping drill, Rohit did well, especially in view of the prevailing circumstances.
The lockdown was stringent in the area as there is a hospital adjacent to the school, which was turned into a Covid Centre. That compelled the school to put strict rules in place. However, through multiple requests by the coach, they were allowed to hold practises but only with the gates locked from outside! Since Rohit and two more Athletes had no other space to practise around their house, they had to be called to a common place to do so. The school seemed safest. Moreover, they do not have cell phones. The Coach had to visit them personally. Rohit’s uniform is also stored and maintained in the school, lest it would get worn out faster than expected.
Despite the challenges, Bhupender was adamant to have Rohit participate in the event because he has seen a positive change that comes along. Rohit gets excited, feels happy and behaves better at home. What changes in Rohit, from participating in sports, is noticed by his sister as well; although she often wonders how he ends up obeying his Coach and not so much his family. “There are two options for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities, Vocational Training (Candle – making, making natural colour etc) and Sports. Special Olympics is an important and perhaps the only platform that aims to bring about Inclusion of Athletes with an Intellectual Disability, through sport. It is an amazing space for them to grow and connect with each other. I as a Coach have always upheld that. I would never intentionally miss any opportunity, of having Rohit or any other Athlete, participate in a sporting event. I will explore all opportunities and attempt to overcome all the challenges to do so.”- says Bhupender
Rohit has already participated in yet another virtual sporting event following Cricket, which is the badminton tournament
“Cricket, although took place on a virtual platform, it brought all Athletes to the field. Of course, Covid Appropriate Behaviour (CAB) was maintained. Delightfully, both physical fitness and emotional health of our athletes got a boost. Changes were observed in them. Winning or losing was not important; Victory was achieved everywhere as they learnt to fight with odds. The opportunity has further strengthened their technological skills, social relationships and confidence – Dr Amitav Mishra, Former General Secretary, SO Bharat