Four special-needs girls have overcome great odds and difficult circumstances to represent India at the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria, and win medals too. Barnali Das finds out more about these intrepid sportswomen.
Everyone loves stories of triumph by underdogs. There couldn’t have been a more fascinating one than this! Who could have imagined that four abandoned, specially-abled girls would get to represent India and reach the zenith of sporting abilities at the recently concluded Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria? Well, they did, and how!
The odds were stacked high against 19-year-old Kiran, Dulfisha, and Diksha, and 17-year-old Vidushi. These four athletes from SOS Children’s Villages of India were part of the Indian contingent at the Special Olympics held in Austria from 14th to 25th March, 2017.
The Indian contingent made India proud by delivering stellar performances and winning 37 Gold, 10 Silver, and 26 Bronze Medals for the country.
Despite the odds, what Kiran, Vidushi, Dulfisha, and Diksha have been able to achieve is incredible. They were selected by Special Olympics Bharat (SOB) to be part of the Women’s Floor Hockey team of India that won a Bronze at the Games. Vidushi was selected to be a part of the Women’s Floor Ball team. While Team India did not get any medal in this category, she received the medal for the Best Floor Ball Player. Thanks to their sheer talent, hard work, and excellence in Floor Ball and Floor Hockey, these gritty and spunky girls made winning medals seem almost effortless.
Role models for girls across the nation, Kiran, Vidushi, Dulfisha, and Diksha have been nurtured in SOS Children’s Villages of Khajurikalan (Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh), Jaipur, and Latur. Gritty to the core, they never allowed their social circumstances or disabilities stand in the way of hard work and determination to dream big.
Their journey began in SOS Villages when they were infants and toddlers.
In February 2016, the National Floor Ball Championship was organized at Bilaspur, Himachal Pradesh. Nearly 500 athletes with special needs (male and female) from 20 states participated in this national-level competition. The Girls Floor Ball team of Madhya Pradesh comprised of eight players—Lakshmi, Kiran, Mahalakshmi, Shruti, Pawli, Mansi, Vidushi, and Manimeghlai. All the eight players are from SOS Children’s Village Khajurikalan.
The team reached the finals and won the Gold Medal for Madhya Pradesh. The hard-earned Gold Medal for the State catapulted Vidushi and Kiran to special preparatory training camps to represent India in the Special Olympics World Winter Games.
Despite their special needs, they have been able to overcome odds to emerge as storehouses of sporting talent. The first and foremost need of such special children is to grow up in normal surroundings where they can learn and grow with others. At the same time, their special individual requirements need to be addressed too. Central to these is the development of a physical environment that is supportive and facilitating. While providing a safe and secure surrounding, such an environment encourages independence and freedom.
Kiran was brought home to SOS Children’s Village Latur in November 1996 when she was a day old. Later, she moved to Khajurikalan Village in 2005 when she was 8 years old, due to her special needs. SOS Mother Sarika is bringing her up. Kiran joined the Special Olympics Sports programme three years ago. She can hear, but cannot speak.
Vidushi arrived at SOS Children’s Village Varanasi when she was a 4-day-old baby in August 1999. She later moved to Khajurikalan Village in August, 2007 at the age of 8, where she came under the loving care of SOS Mother Reena. Vidushi received the best possible treatment for her hearing and speech impairments.
She takes keen interest in sports such as Floor Hockey, Football, Badminton, Basketball, Cycling, etc., with swimming her favourite.
Dulfisha was 7 years old when she came to SOS Children’s Village Jaipur after the death of both her parents. Officials entrusted her to the loving care of SOS Mother Gauri. A shy and hesitant girl, Dulfisha initially took time to adjust to her new surroundings, but with loving care and support she settled down soon.
She was unable to walk freely as she had rickets in both legs. However, she was provided appropriate medical treatment, and after the surgery, she could walk freely and started playing outdoor games with other children in the village with full gusto. She was so fond of sports that she started taking part in many school-level sports competitions. Her sports coach spotted her talent and suggested that she should play floor hockey instead of basketball.
Diksha came to SOS Children’s Village Latur in July 2001 when she was 3 years old, accompanied by her two biological siblings—elder brother Vishal and younger sister Nikita. Their father had died due to liver failure in May 2000, and their poor, illiterate mother, who was a daily-wage agriculture labourer suffering from chronic illness, was unable to take care of these three children. She, therefore, admitted her children to the nearest SOS Village. Since Diksha was not able to cope up with academics in a regular school, she took admission in a special school in 2009. She has always shown keen interest in sports and dance, and there has been no looking back since then.
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