We should not forget the tiny Olympians who have excelled in the Special Olympics World Games, in spite of their other challenges and disabilities. They have brought laurels for the country. Majority of them are disadvantaged, neglected and poor enough to support a living. They deserve to be duly honoured, awarded and supported by the government and sports authority.
The word ‘inability’ is not found in the dictionary of the spirited and painstaking people. It is never a hindrance in their way to success. Wahengbam Pritam Singh, a differently-able child being nurtured at the ‘Mangal’ Special residential school, has amply proved it. He participated in the XIII Special Olympics World Summer Games at Athens, Greece in June-July 2011 as part of India
Handball team which won Silver Medal for the country. In this global competition, four children of the state (two in Soccer, one each in Handball and Athletics) along with H. Chaoba Singh as Coach were among the national team comprising 188 athletes. M Punshisana, another child from Manipur won Gold Medal in Half Marathon. Ch. Abung, of Mangal special school and Satjahao Doungel of another school were part of India Soccer team and stood fifth position in the world event which is held every four year.
Special Olympics Games are organized twice every four years as winter and summer games. Ms. Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who founded the Games in the 1960s, died in Massachusetts on 11 August 2009. The United Nations launched the International Year of Special Olympics on the theme “Special Olympics - Uniting the World” in 1986. The US hosted the Special Olympics World Winter Games in 2009 and next edition is slated to be held in North Korea from 29 January to 6 February 2013. The 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games were held in Athens, Greece in June-July 2011 with nearly 7,000 athletes from 170 countries including 188 from India. Four athletes and one coach from Manipur were parts of Indian contingent. Its next edition will be held in Los Angeles, California in July 2015.
Special residential schools for the mentally challenged children are being run throughout the country. Such a school in Imphal east district of Manipur has so far produced numerous outstanding sportspersons of its genre. Special residential school known as ‘Mangal’ located at Imphal East district, is now home to ninety mentally challenged children. The Home provides training on pre-school skills and therapeutic services other than sports and many vocational trades under the devoted guidance of its secretary, Ch. Radhe Devi.
It is one of the special schools established in Manipur under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. The mission is to guide the persons with mental retardation and developmental delays. Trained teachers of the school impart training on daily living activities to the students as per their IQ level. Basic education includes identification of body parts, animals, fruits, plants and things. Besides various game, dance and music classes; the school prioritizes vocational training of all sorts for the future livelihood of the children. Making of dolls, garlands, agarbati, cane and bamboo containers are common vocations of the boys while girls mainly opt for weaving and embroidery.
Most children are of Down Syndrome and others are mentally retarded with magnitudes categorized as mild, moderate and severe. The teachers lay stress on training for behavior modification of the unusually wild children. The most striking feature of these children is their outstanding performance in various sporting events. The challenged children bring laurels for the state and also for the country in various disciplines.
Three students of ‘Mangal’ special school earlier participated in preparatory camps for Athens Summer World Games 2011 held at Pondicherry and Hyderabad in June and October 2010 respectively. Two of them namely Ch. Abung Singh and W. Pritam Singh along with Football Coach Huidrom Chaoba Singh were selected for the third preparatory camp at Rohtak, Haryana in February 2011.
Three children of ‘Mangal’ namely L. Santosh Singh, Ksh Bobosana Singh and T. Naotombi Singh also participated in Asia-pacific Invitational Cricket Tournament held at Ahmadabad in December 2004. The tournament was organized by Special Olympics Bharat and Special Olympics Gujarat. In the Special Olympics State Games 2004, six male and four female wards of the school participated.
L. Santosh Singh, K. Ngogo Singh and Ph. Sophia of ‘Mangal’ school took part in the Special Olympics National Games at Nehru Stadium, New Delhi. The two boys - Santosh and Ngogo won Silver Medal in athletics event of the Games held from 28th December 2005 to 2nd January 2006.
The ‘Mangal’ Special school took part in Special Olympics State Games held on 14th November 2008 and won Gold Medal in BOCCE event. In January 2009, W. Premjit and Ch. Abung of the school participated as part of Manipur football team in the National Championships held at Kolkata where the state won gold medal in football. In the Special National Games held in Himachal Pradesh from 12th to 16th December 2010, Manipur team including W. Premjit and K. Ngongo Singh won Gold medal in Floor Hockey.
In January 2010, students of the school participated in the Special Olympics Bharat Andhra Pradesh Athletics National Championship in which H. Kiranmala Devi won 2nd position in shot put and 3rd in 100m race. L. Chitra Devi got 3rd position in 25m race and 4th position in 100m race. Kh. Yohenba won gold in 50m race and stood 4th position in softball throw.
In Yogasana competitions also, the mentally challenged children of the school stood various positions. Ch. Abung and Ph. Sonia received first positions in the 2nd State Level Chongtham Gitabali Memorial Yogasana Championship held at Imphal in November 2007. Th Chaoba Singh got second position while H. Kiranmala Devi and W. Premjit jointly stood third position. Six wards of the school namely Ch. Abung, M. Nederson, Y. Chitra, W. Pritam, W.Onida and K. Ngogo participated in the trial cum selection yoga competition held at Rupmahal Theatre on 10th October 2011.
In the 3rd state level spot painting competition for the mentally retarded and Cerebral Palsy persons in July 2007, wards of this school - Ph. Sonia, Ch. Abung and Ch. Rabichandra got first, second and third prizes respectively. In the 4th edition of the same competition organised by All Manipur Mentally Handicapped Persons Welfare Organisation in 2009, Mutum Nederson won the third position.
The challenges before the challenged children need special attention of the government and the society as a whole. Their felicitation should not be limited to formal functions in which a nominal and minimal cash award was presented to each participant. The poor, the challenged but differently able achievers require the continuous encouragement to support their living. Considering their destiny among the humanity, the government may please consider life supporting options for our tiny Olympians.