The Rio Olympics is just a matter of months away and the sports fans of India have started to rally around the Indian athletes. All the attention, glitz, and glamor get focused to the Summer Olympic Games in this time frame; but we always fail to give attention to the Para-Olympics, which happens later.
While giving importance to Para-Olympics is one thing, looking after our athletes who will be appearing for the games is perhaps something that needs more importance. Shiva Prasad S, a 28-year old wheelchair tennis player who has represented India in the international stage, along with a team of para-Athletes has set up the Divyaang Myitri Sports Academy to aid the cause. Sports Rediscovered recently caught up with him for an Interview and here is what he had to say:
SR: What are the major problems that you face while being a Para-athlete?
A: Associations are not recognized, No specialized coaches, No proper training facility, No financial support, and list goes on.
SR: What was the mission of the Divyaang Myitri Sports Academy and could you tell the brief story about how you managed to get it up and running?
A: Divyaang Myitri Sports Academy (DMSA) – Founded by a team of Para-Athletes, to address issues faced by para sportsmen while representing his country in international events and fulfilling the lack of infrastructure in India. Our unique strength is that we have understood what an athlete goes through personally when he attempts to make his country proud. India has huge potential to become para-sports dominant country in the world and we strongly believe in this, our athletes lack adequate funding and support from Government or any other institutions.
We formed this organization to help the best Para-talent financially and with required training so that he focuses only on his performance rather than struggling for funds.
Our major source of the fund would be from our Green Initiative where we encourage people to adopt a plant through us for an annual fee of 500 rupees and through our operating member’s contribution (Hundred rupees per month) & Public funding.
Our NGO is at very early stage and looking forward to set up an office and online presence.
90% of our members are differently abled and represented India in Wheelchair Tennis and other sports. We have personally faced and have a deep understanding of challenges.
SR: How different are Para-Athletes treated in India and outside India?
A: Australian Para-athletes get access to Gyms, Courts / training facility and sponsorship which are on par with normal athletes. In our country Para-Sports is considered as a courtesy.
SR: If any person is interested in helping the Academy, how could they do that?
A: We would like to tie-up corporates and raise funds / become DMSA Member by sponsoring 100 rs every month.
SR: How does the Government help Para-athletes and what improvements could be made to this current system?
A: State Government provides Rs. 30,000 as reimbursement and this need to continue and also recognize International Players through cash awards.
SR: The common trend these days is to have televised ‘Leagues’ for all the sports out there, do you think this is an effective method? Also, will it work in the case of wheelchair tennis?
A: All the tennis tournaments need include wheelchair tennis. There need to be regular tournaments conducted by AITA and provide rankings.
SR: What is that our Para-athletes need the most and what are the steps in which we could achieve the same?
A: Major challenges are 1. Qualified Coach 2. Specialized Coach in respective streams, 3. Financial assistance for sports trips.
SR: What is the message that you have for the sports community, government and the aspiring Para-athletes out there?
A: We need more sporting communities focusing on Para-Sports, Government should have clear cut policy to fund Para-athletes and continue supporting & promoting Para – Sports. Para – Athletes, sports doesn’t care who you are, chase your dreams.