#IStandIndependent - Amidst hardships, Manoj Kumar pursues his love for sports with determination & hard work
In our August campaign #IStandIndependent on emerging para sportspersons, we feature S Manoj Kumar, a wheelchair racing champion, who has beaten all obstacles to pursue his passion for sports.
For 28-year-old Manoj Kumar, pursuing sports is not easy given the many obstacles in his path. Owing to financial constraints and lack of a job, Kumar is struggling to make ends meet. Regardless of that, Manoj, who is a professional wheelchair racer, practices regularly. Manoj's journey is one of determination, hard work and confidence.
Last April, this youngster won a gold medal for India in both the 100 and 200 metres wheelchair racing at the 4th International Para Athletics Championship in Morocco, which Manoj rates the most fulfilling experience of his life. Apart from that, he has won many national championships playing for his home state, Tamil Nadu.
From childhood, Kumar was an ardent lover of sports. Born in Theni in small town Tamil Nadu, he moved to Coimbatore where he is based now. He is being trained and sponsored by the Sahai Trust, an NGO that empowers wheelchair users. However, things went downhill when he lost his job.
Currently, my friends are sponsoring things for me due to which I can barely survive. Recently, I lost my job and that made things very difficult for me especially since my parents are also dependent on me. But I still want to keep playing and bring home more international championships for India. Things are not easy, but I have the will to work hard. - Manoj Kumar, Wheelchair racer
Since Manoj rides a customised bike for regular practice sessions, his daily fuel expenses have become a substantial burden. He is unable to buy good sports equipment as well. Kumar stays in a rented apartment, thanks to a close friend who is sponsoring him but had to drop out of his graduation as he found it hard to cope. He now sells washing powders, lotions and phenyls. "I buy them wholesale and sell it off. It is not a very profitable business. But I'am able to make ends meet", he says.
Kumar regularly goes to Nehru Stadium in Coimbatore, which is almost 15 kms away from his home, to practice wheelchair racing. "It is far off from where I stay, but that is the only stadium that has a synthetic track where I can practice". He also goes to the Sahai Trust to practice other sports under the guidance of his physiotherapist and mentor Palanisami. He gets a disability pension of ₹1, 000 every month from the state government too. "It is high time that government pays us more amount. How can someone survive with this meagre amount in today's times", he asks, which is a relevant question.
Kumar says that a supportive family is his biggest asset. "Without them nothing would have been possible. They have stood by me through thick and thin", he says.
In spite of all the hardships, Kumar is gearing up to participate in the upcoming Wheelchair Racing World Championship that will be held at Dubai this November. He is being trained by Palanisami who ensures that Kumar gets nothing lesser than the best.
"Kumar's ultimate dream is to participate in the Paralympics. He is very hard-working and travels regularly in order to not miss his practice sessions. He got selected for nationals after participating in many district championships and proving his skills", says Palanisami.
With a strong and determined mind, Kumar is gearing up to scale heights and bring home more laurels for India in months to come.
You can contact Manoj Kumar at +91 87601-16527.