Deaf swimmer Sagar Rajeev Badve wants to change attitudes about disabilities through sports
In our September campaign #InternationalWeekOfTheDeaf2020, we feature 30-year-old para sportsperson Sagar Rajeev Badve who was diagnosed deaf at the age of six. Sagar, who has won many national and international laurels shows that a disability is no barrier to success.
Thirty-year-old Sagar Rajeev Badve from Aurangabad was diagnosed with glaucoma in both eyes a few days after birth. By the age of six, he was diagnosed deaf. But this youngster has beaten his disabilities to become a national champion in swimming. Apart from winning laurels and accolades for India, more than 100 medals and numerous other prizes, Sagar today teachers swimming to children with and without disabilities, something which has become his passion. Throughout his journey is his mother Kanchan and Rajeev Badve who stands by him as strong pillars of support.
When Sagar was hardly three days old after birth, doctors confirmed he had glaucoma in both eyes. They said a surgery would restore his vision and Sagar was just 21 days old when he underwent a surgery on both eyes. Kanchan believes they were given the wrong medical advice.
“I feel that Sagar was given a strong dose of general anaesthesia that affected him physically. He continues to rely on eye drops for better vision although he can do everything independently including driving a car”, says Kanchan.
By the age of four, Sagar was unable to even stand on his own without support. He was being hyperactive, anxious and angry most of the time which worried his parents. By the age of six, he was diagnosed with deafness.
First two years of Sagar’s school life was spent at a special school in Aurangabad. “Due to his hyperactivity, I remember doctors told me that he is mentally retarded. He used to shout a lot and throw things around which made things at home and school difficult”, she says.
So Kanchan, in order to support her son, decided to do a special education course which helped her. “That was the same time when Sagar was diagnosed with deafness. So I was not really shocked post his diagnosis. I was like, OK if he is deaf, I know ways to empower him from whatever I have studied. Thus began our journey together”, she remembers.
Sagar attended a deaf school for a couple of years. But Kanchan and Rajeev wanted to see how well he can blend with mainstream education. So Sagar was put into a regular school at the age of nine when he did class one. There, he completed class 12 too.
Sagar went on to acquire degrees in computer applications and teaching physical education. He also did a one-year post-graduate diploma in swimming coaching accredited by the Sports Authority of India (SAI).
Loves teaching children
At present Sagar teaches swimming to children with and without disabilities. He has specialised in water therapy, a skill that has helped him too. “When Sagar was diagnosed, we were thinking of ways of helping him physically. Since we are swimmers, swimming came to our mind as an option. That helped Sagar a lot”.
Since 1998, Sagar has won over 100 medals. He participated in 10 deaf national events as well as nearly 20 para national events. He was the only disabled person to participate in the senior swimming nationals at Hyderabad in the year 2008.
Sagar also took part in the Deaf Olympics in the years 2005, 2009 and 2013. He made his mark in the The Lake Zurich Marathon Swim in 2013 as the only Asian at the event where he swam 26 kms amidst harsh weather conditions. In 2020, he won the Chattrapati Shivaji Award too.
His achievements won him the attention of former president APJ Abdul Kalam. In 2002, Sagar’s parents spent over 30 minutes interacting with him, one of their proudest moments.
“Every person, whether they have a disability or not, has some strengths. It is important to help them achieve it. Never stop them in the path to success”, says Kanchan.
A proud father, Rajeev says that everyone calls him ‘baba’, and he is known as Sagar’s father. “During Sagar’s childhood, I used to travel 20 days a month for work. So it was Kanchan who stood by him and empowered him. Today, I am proud of both of them”, he says.