Hoping that more stakeholders will come forward and hold our hand: Deepa Malik

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New Delhi, Sep 5 (IANS) The Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) president Deepa Malik said on Sunday that she hopes the 19 medals bagged at the Tokyo Paralympics will help bring more stakeholders in teaming up with para sports. She also said that the aim is now to identify and nurture new talent.

“We are definitely hoping that more stakeholders will come forward and hold our hand. We as a federation are responsible to create new talent, identify and work with new talent, so that is the aim right now,” said Deepa in a virtual interaction organised by broadcasters Eurosport and PCI.

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She also said that the focus will be on identifying the next generation of para-athletes from the country. “We are going to short-list important qualifying international events and the Youth Asian Para Games are also coming in Bahrain. In February, we also have to start working with the U20 younger brigade because you see how beautifully younger brigade has performed in Tokyo 2020.”

“The Gen-Next is ready and roaring. We need to give them a platform to get classified and go out and participate, get international exposure, get more and more opportunities to get them medically classified, otherwise the new talent gets wasted. They have to get classified as soon as possible because they can then start training in the correct categorization,” added Deepa.

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Deepa, who won a silver medal in shot put at the 2016 Rio Paralympics, mentioned about the athlete-centric approach as the reason behind India’s astounding success in the just-finished Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

“I think all factors combined. Because unless you have the awareness, where will the new talent come in? 2016 probably, with the help of, media and the support of government and their policies, helped us create an atmosphere which was accepting of para-sports. And people looked up to para-sports as the prestigious platform to come and empower themselves and create their abilities beyond disabilities.”

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“When we created the latest federation group, we wanted to make it an athlete-centric approach, and me being put as President speaks highly of that approach. We have tirelessly worked to create proposals as and when requirements have come from the athletes. We have not held it up in email inbox. We have not wasted time. We did not make them wait for a prosthetic, nutrition, right kit or equipment. Everything has fallen in place with these medals and our experiment has worked.”

The 50-year-old stressed upon the changes in the mindset of the coaches in the run up to the Paralympics. “This time the coaches have understood that they need to take a very scientific approach. They are more accepting of sports science. Till 2014-15, I have experienced that the coaches were very possessive about their athletes. Whether it was physiotherapist/ nutritionist, they seemed to claim to know everything. But now the coaches approach has also changed, they are asking for physiotherapist, injury management, performance test.”

“They want to take the opinion of a fitness and conditioning coach. When their athlete is not feeling good, they want a mental trainer for them. So this whole acceptance of para-sports as mainstream sports where the athlete has been put at par with any other athlete without any disability, that is also made a huge difference.”

Deepa concluded by saying that people with the knowledge of classification of various para events are the need of the hour in India. “In athletics, it is practically none. IPC classified classifiers are zero. We do have one in shooting who has done an international course. So, train the trainer is a program we need to focus on. I am going to have a conversation with honorable minister that we need to have more knowledge bank and right people around.”

“If a physiotherapist or orthopedic surgeon or neurophysicist goes to learn about the classification of the muscle charting, it makes better sense than a layman going there. We need to have more scientific approach. We have to ensure that new talent gets more opportunities and slots to get classified. Coming close to a person of disability is kind of on hold right now due to the pandemic. I hope that IPC opens more slots and we can grab them as fast as possible.”

–IANS

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