What brings Kalpana from Odisha, Jeyaseela from Tamil Nadu and Indu Prakash from Jharkhand is their passion for cycling. They share a common experience of cycling to run errands, which placed them in a position to block a spot for themselves at the global mega event- the Special Olympics World Summer Games to be held in Berlin, Germany in June 2023. At the National Camp held a few months back all three also got a chance to use new bikes, which added joy and deepen an inspiration to continue to discover and develop their abilities to compete at a global level.
Preparing for the event has already hinted at elements of transformation within and around them, with each having their own challenges to fight. Jeyaseela, rejected by her siblings after losing both her parents, have them reaching back to her and cheering her for the competition. Kalpana is a role model for a budding athlete who is already pitching for the next World games, following her example. Kalpana has shown tremendous improvement in her confidence levels demonstrating a potential for leadership. Indu Prakash has seen his parents struggle in their daily lives and is determined to make them proud of himself and to support him some day. He sees the World games as an entry into a world of positivity and change. While they practise, their mentors ensure that they stand behind for the required motivation and guidance. All of them are currently cycling approx. 40kms daily to prove their sweat to themselves, to their families and communities
Indu Prakash from Jharkhand
Indu Prakash, 20 yrs, has always cycled to run errands and help his parents in any which way possible. While his mother diligently labours to churn out four to five hundred idlis daily overnite, to sell the next day, his father works with the Railways, in-charge of railway track maintenance, in Ranchi, Jharkhand. A small room which includes a kitchen accommodates Indu’s family of four.
Indu has an Intellectual Disability which of the many ways, manifests in a challenged speech. His challenges were observed by his family when he was 3-4 yrs old. Struggling to make ends meet, his parents accepted this as their destiny, especially after their second born son too, manifested Intellectual Disability.
While he cycled to carry out tasks, Indu remained unmindful of a level of skill and fitness being developed within, recognised in the world of sports above everything else. A new bike brought a new ray of hope for Indu whose first reaction was that he was now sure to win a medal for his country!
This hope pushes him to keep competing with himself, as his focus is sharply on the upcoming Special Olympics World Summer Games to be held in Berlin, Germany in 2023. He rides morning and evening covering approx. 45-50 kms daily along with visiting the gym frequently. He is mentored by his Coach, Mr Narender Hansa and also receives constant guidance from Mr Satbir Singh Sahota , a veteran sportsperson , international cyclist and asst area director of SO Bharat Jharkhand. Observing Indu closely, has already set Mr Satbir in the process of making a road map for him to cycle his way into mainstream competitions having yet another Athlete with an Intellectual Disability, accepted and included.
Jeyaseela from Tamil Nadu
Jeyaseela, 32 yrs, faced a shocking rejection from her siblings after her mother’s passing, a tragedy that repeated after the loss of her father a few years before. She was made to join St. Anne’s Special School, Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu, as her siblings, two brothers and a sister, could not take care of her without both their parents. She was 24 yrs old then and had to grapple with an aching loss alongside a whole new environment to adjust with. She joined the 65 residents and 40 non-resident students at the facility. The warmth of the school embraced her with the love and care that continues to bring a smile on her face.
Jeyaseela has a learning disability which began to surface only later in her academic timeline. Until grade eight she passed every level but was significantly unable to cope with studies later. She demonstrated less interest in self-care when she joined St Annes; seeing her not well-groomed was a common sight. She was placed under the care of Sr Jenci who trained her in personal care, general fitness & sports.
Her sporting talent was explored across Athletics and Cycling. Although she ran, but cycling is where her heart led her to. Cycling drew her attention and interest, making this her selected sport clearly. She was nominated to participate in the Special Olympics sports camps held subsequently. Surprisingly through the camps, Jeyaseela has become conscious of how she appears, she understands that she needs to be well-groomed. She has gained confidence as her social interaction has expanded. She cheerfully greets everyone and communicates excitedly despite being adept only in her mother- tongue which is Tamil. The faculty and the state team reached out to potential sponsors for a new bike for her soon after, however were unable to do so.
Jeyaseela’s practises are closely monitored by Sister Jenci Rani Special educator, who accompanies her diligently every day, and guided by Mr. A K Nagarajan, Cycle coach from Sivagangai district. Her day comprises of two slots delegated to the Berlin Games 2023 preparation. The morning regimen is essentially of fitness while the evenings have her practise cycling covering approx. 45 kms with scheduled recesses, daily.
The bike donation has been received with much delight and relief by the state as they have made earnest attempts in the past few months to acquire, not having met with success. The new bike, Jeyaseela trusts, would take her closer to her goal of winning a gold medal for her country. Keeping updated on their sister, her siblings are as much surprised as proud of her focus and progress. The world games is a mega event and having Jeyaseela to even participate in it gives a grave reason for the state and her family to recognise her ability and determination.
In the words of Sister Sabeena, Principal, St Anne’s Special School, “Jeyaseela was very happy to receive a new cycle and it means a lot to her. She has gained more confidence and tells us that if she wins a medal, we must buy her a new dress & earrings. Seeing her the other residents feel that if they perform well, they too will get an opportunity to take part in World Games. It is for the first time that a student from St. Anne’s school is taking part in the World games. Until now, they had only qualified the national level”
Kalpana Jena from Odisha
Kalpana Jena ,19 yrs, would ride between her house and school in the district of Cuttak, nearly every day since 2017. Cycle, as a mode of transportation is encouraged by the local authorities who also provide cycles to students who go to govt schools there. Kalpana, who carried out this task daily never realized that it would develop a sporting skill, that would map her journey to a global stage. Often being bullied , especially at the way she speaks , she spent most of her time either in school or at home, helping her mother in house chores, limiting her interaction with others. Deep within herself she realized that she could not express herself as well as others do. As she saw others, she too waited to discover her own talent.
In 2017 Kalpana was introduced to Special Olympics through her mentor, Bibekananda Mohanty, as part of the regular SSA (Sarva Shiksha Abhyan) outreach by the state chapter. Kalpana was trained to participate in sports and did so across Athletics, Badminton, Football and Roller Skating. While she continued to practice at her school, the pandemic paused her regular routine. Nevertheless, cycling went on as it was essentially used to run errands. She comes from a home that has only seen struggle in their daily lives. Her parents work in the agriculture fields furiously , daily, to support a family of 6 (including four children). A one-room accommodation houses all of them. Observing her delayed milestones left her parents dejected but did not deter to leverage any opportunity that would help Kalpana develop. The change that has come about Kalpana makes them very happy.
Having participated in various sports camps which map a structured trajectory to the World Games has changed the environment in her home. Kalpana is more confident, and that is evident in her social behaviour. While Kalpana is delighted to practice the sport and be regular with her fitness sessions, she is extremely excited to represent her country. At the National Camp held in December 2022 in Jharkhand, she practiced on a new bike and looks forward to do so in the next camp. Mr Prakash Rath, Area Director of SO Bharat Odisha has found a drastic improvement in the social behaviour and public communication of Kalpana. “She conveyed the message of inclusion in clear cut words in the interview taken by a TV channel during the Unified Football event conducted on 14th November 2022. Now she has grown into a good athlete leader. She showed her leadership qualities during the last State Level Unified Youth Activation program held on 4th and 5th February 2023. She was advising Indramani Kandi (an Athlete leader) to limit his speech and stick to the points and not be repetitive. She has an eye for details”
Says Mr Bibeka, “ The only thing she fusses over is food . I will see how that can be changed, but it is amusing to see how she instantly beams at the mention of a ‘photo’”. Seeing a change in her personality, since she started attending the sports camps, Bibekananda is sure that he would see more changes in Kalpana that bring positivity, joy and hope for her as well as for others around her. He is already preparing another athlete who wants to cycle ‘more’ and follow Kalpana’s example