Steering around the Odds- George Aplonia – Athlete SO Bharat Kerala
Aplonia, 20 yrs, won two bronze medals in Cycling (1K TT; 500 TT) at the Special Olympics World Summer Games 2019 Abu Dhabi UAE. Hailing from the district of Kottayam in Kerala this is not what she could even dream of. She dreams of being re-united with her sister and of living in a house at some point in life and for this she wants to earn. She also wants to complete the tenth grade, if she ever gets a chance to do so
When she was four years old her mother who is believed to be mentally unstable had attempted to kill her while travelling outside the city. She was caught red handed by her co-passengers and the child was handed over to an orphanage. The orphanage enrolled her in a boarding school. At the school she demonstrated behavior problems. She would beat up the teachers and lock them. It was not a surprise that her school was changed. In four years four schools were changed.
Finally she settled in the Anugraha Special School, Kottakkapuram under the mentorship of Shilaja Chandran (who has been associated with SO Bharat as Coach since 2012). With continuous training, individual attention and lots of love and care Aplonia started to settle and demonstrate other talents which were lying obscured within her. She has a passion for dance. Although she carries no stage fear, she stammers and feels shy to speak.
She has been associated with SO Bharat for 5 years now. Her behavior even now has to be monitored but sports has steered her energy most meaningfully. Besides cycling, Aplonia has participated in Volleyball, Handball and Badminton while in Special Olympics
She met her mother once, at the MR mental hospital, but promised never to meet her again. She gets her peace from her ‘lady-in charge’ who is like a mother to her at the Orphanage. She also keeps herself busy by taking care of the lower ability Athletes and volunteers whole-heartedly to run errands
On returning to her hometown from the World Games in March 2019, Aplonia was received separately and ceremoniously by different groups of people in her district, all felicitating her with small cash awards. The Panchayat, which is the local government, gave her a reception recognizing her achievements. The Cash awards that she has been getting from these different groups will support her education, as she prioritizes. The District Collector of Kottayam suggested to Sister Rani Joe, SO Bharat Kerala Program Manager, that they must initiate procuring a ‘fit to work’ certificate for Aplonia from the DMO (District Medical Officer) which would open opportunities for her employment in future as well.
While for Aplonia her medals mean a gateway to higher education and that is enough to excite her greatly, Sister Rani looks at her with wonder and gratitude, amazed at how the contrasting experiences have created a true Champion of her