Lakhan- A passion takes over
Participating in the Special Olympics World Summer Games 2019 Abu Dhabi was a completely different experience for Lakhan , 32 yrs , Cycling Coach from Jharkhand. The place that was bustling with talent and excitement held so much for his Athletes. A sense of achievement overcame him as he felt that here is the recognition for each and every Athlete who he mentored closely against so many challenges back in his village. Always having participated at National events as a participant, this time he was one of the Coaches who led a cycling contingent of 35 who returned with 45 Medals from the mega event.
‘From a participant my role changed to that of a Coach when I joined SO Bharat back in 2012. My perspective changed. My focus now is not only to improve my performance but I am also responsible for creating a path of success for others as well. Seeing the Athletes learn, participate and win feels like a higher achievement for me’ Lakhan Hansda, Jharkhand’s only international competitive cyclist so far, belongs to a family struggling to make ends meet. His dream did not really fit into the background he belonged to. But he continued to dream.
At the age of 13 , in the Damodih village in East Singhbhum, he was exposed to a platform which provided his daily mode of transport – a cycle, an opportunity to compete. But for participating at this level the cycle that he used to ride was no good. The appropriate one would cost a whooping Rs 65,000 back then! The reality of the situation got overshadowed with his passion and persistence and his father mortgaged the property that belonged to Lakhan’s three brothers as well, to buy him his first cycle. Having bought it this way deepened his commitment that took him through various competitions at the local, State and National levels. Many years back he turned to Mr Satbir Sahota Asst Area Director SO Bharat- Jharkhand also an employee of TATA at that time, for guidance. Under his tutelage he built up his stamina and speed.
By the time he joined SO Bharat , he was deeply embedded in the sport and was now ready to mentor, something he recalls Mr Satbir doing for him. “ He was my God, my guide” . “I am proud to be a Coach. There is a difference in Coaching Special Athletes. I recall that during my training the trainer drove a motor cycle as I cycled; but at Special Olympics even the trainer has to cycle to demonstrate every move- paddling, balancing and so on. When you strike a bond with the Athletes is hard to say. I had a great bonding with Abhishek Gogoi, Athlete from Assam and others as well.” Having trained about 200 SO Bharat Athletes, Lakhan continues to identify talent at the grassroots and is already working on six Athletes after his return from the Abu Dhabi Games 2019.
With clarity and conviction Lakhan says, “ Without Special Olympics the Athletes would not have been able to accomplish themselves to a level that they have. Also, the outside world would’ve been absolutely non-existent for them. Every experience brings with it a new learning, making me a better Coach. While having technical knowledge about cycles is imperative, spending time, understanding, recognizing individual abilities and training the Athletes accordingly, is a heartwarming transformation. Special Olympics is my home”
Even today Lakhan continues to farm as that remains his primary source of livelihood but keeps himself fit and ready for any cycling competition or training by riding his cycle as regularly as he can from 2AM-6AM to maintain and increase his record of covering 12000 kms annually. After 6 AM is when he makes himself available for anything else