Sports celebrities interact with athletes with intellectual disabilities in special event
Some of India’s best known and loved sports celebrities interacted with athletes with intellectual disabilities at during an online meet organised by the Special Olympics Bharat. Called Surprise and Delight, this is being held as a part of a global initiative by Special Olympics Inc.
From Baichung Bhutia, the former professional footballer who led India into the international arena to seven-time national tennis champion Gaurav Natekar, the Surprise & Delight session organised by Special Olympics Bharat for athletes with intellectual disabilities from across the country truly loved up to its name.
It was truly a star line up. Joining Natekar and Bhutia at the virtual session were Bula Choudhury, former national women’s swimming champion and Joy Bhattacharjya, CEO, Pro Volleyball League. This session followed an earlier one where athletes interacted with international athletics champion Anju Bobby George, athletics coach Robert Bobby George, former athlete Anand Menezes and former heptathlete Pramila Gudanda Aiyappa.
Events aimed at inclusion through sports
The Surprise & Delight sessions are being held as part of a global Special Olympics’ Inc initiative for athletes with intellectual disabilities. The sessions revolve around aspects of sports and inclusion.
Bhutia, famously called Sikkimese Striker, shared inspiring stories from his journey as a footballer. anecdotes from his journey as a footballer. He shared the importance of playing a sport from a young age and encouraged athletes to continue training well.
It is great to see the youth following sports other than cricket. Thanks to live telecasts of European football, the sport is much more popular among kids now than it was 20 years ago. Talent is there, but it is important for people to get their children to the grounds to play. We should organise more and more competitions at the grassroots level to encourage the youth and grow the culture of football and other sports in India. – Baichung Bhutia, Former Indian professional footballer
The sessions help athletes with intellectual disabilities and their families to learn firsthand from the experienced sportspersons, seek advice, ask questions and soak in the excitement of sharing a platform with people shaping the sporting scenario in India.
Unified Sports to enable inclusion
“Our Special Athletes have been training in hundreds, attending the World Games and bringing back medals galore”, said Air Marshal Denzil Keelor (Retd.) Founder-CEO Special Olympics Bharat. “They have been doing this more than any other federation and yet awareness level regarding this population is less than one per cent.” Events like Surprise & Delight he hopes will change that. “These are opportunities to reach out to distinguished people in society who are in a position to catalyse inclusion”.
Choudhary and Natekar also spoke in detail about the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and responded to questions about the skills and challenges of specific sports. Bhattacharjya took the opportunity to underline the importance of unified sports in schools. “Children don’t just go to school to study. They also go there to socialise and do things together with their peers. Unified sports is just as important as academic integration. We need to provide practical, simple, step-by-step mandates to schools to help them build structures which enable unified sports.”
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