Jumping Over Disability

Interview with Girish H.N. - the high jump athlete representing India at the Paralympics 2012 in London.

Guest Blogger Arundhati Venkatesh is an engineer by degree. An IT professional in her previous life, she now works for an NGO, is an aspiring writer and kid-lit enthusiast, a mother, an observer of life and people, a feminist, a minimalist and a compulsive maker of lists! She blogs at Arundhativ.

Girish H.N. (B.A.) is representing India in the Paralympics 2012 at London. He will be competing in the high jump event. The 24 year-old has an impairment in his left leg, but that doesn’t deter him from making leaps as high as 1.8 meters. In the past, Girish has won medals at the Asian Championship and the World Games for the Disabled. I spoke to this enthusiastic and promising sportsperson shortly before his departure.

Girish_High Jump Athlete Arundhati Venkatesh (AV): How does it feel to be representing the country?

Girish H.N. (GHN): There is a feeling of great pride that I am representing the nation in the world’s biggest event – the Olympics and Paralympics. I feel fortunate and blessed.

AV: You will be travelling to London soon, what are your expectations?

GHN: This is going to be an experience for me; it is the first time I am taking part in the Paralympics. Every athlete dreams of winning a medal. I have belief in my abilities, but I don’t have expectations.

AV: How do you feel watching Olympics on T.V. and knowing you will be there taking part?

GHN: The performance of Indian sportspersons has motivated me even further. It feels good to know I will be in the same position, performing in the same place. I am trying to learn from what I watch, from the reactions, the weather conditions.

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AV: How are you training and preparing for the event?

GHN: I have been training here in Bangalore right from March, learning techniques under the guidance of coach Satyanarayana of Karnataka Athletics Association, Nikitin, a Ukrainian trainer employed with Sports Authority of India and Olympics-qualified high-jumper Sahana Kumari.

AV: How did you get to where you are, what was the qualification process like?

GHN: I come from a very poor family, from a village in Karnataka. Between 2008 and 2010 I was not able to take part in sports. Then I underwent the soft skills and BPO training at Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled. That turned things around for me. I was recruited by ING Vysya Bank. I worked at the bank. In 2012, I was in Kuwait for the Paralympics qualifier, with the Rs. 80,000 sponsorship from ING Vysya. I won a gold medal and qualified for the Paralympics. It was a dream come true for me, like attaining the fruit of penance.

I am one of the five athletes from all over India who qualified, and the only one from the south. I topped in the trials. I had to give up my job for the Paralympics training since it was not possible to take more than a 2-month break, and I was required to be away for six months. But I feel like I am a sportsman today. The outcome is secondary; I feel I have achieved something regardless. I hope this will be an example to others.

AV:How do sports and tournaments for the differently-abled help? Some may feel sports for the physically challenged is not required…

GHN: One never questions why Saina Nehwal should play badminton, or Tendulkar should wield a bat. The differently-abled have a right to take part in sports too. Why not us?

From playing at the district level, to representing the state and country and bringing name and fame – sports has made me what I am.

Physical health & fitness, confidence, growth as an individual, self-esteem and happiness – sports for the differently-abled has all these benefits and it is for this reason that I hope it is promoted and develops. There is a lot of scope.

AV: How can organizations and individuals promote sports for the differently-abled?

GHN: An athlete cannot participate under poor financial conditions. Sponsorship and support are required. This happens in all countries. It is a symbiotic relationship – with the individual’s growth and development, the company or foundation also benefits.

AV: What would you like to tell children watching the Games?

Whatever the field or area you want to work in, it is for you to choose, you must aspire and dream big. You must also work hard to chase those dreams, have self-belief and strive to fulfil your potential.

AV: Finally, what is your message to readers?

GHN: Each one of us has talent, including the physically challenged. It is a challenge, yes. The way my parents brought me up was no different – I was given the same treatment as other children. I was given opportunities not sympathy. I never once felt I was disabled. I played games with everyone else and was captain of the cricket team. I competed in events in the general category and won – I took home the silver and bronze medals at Mysore University.

Even if one doesn’t win, he or she must be encouraged. Someone who has been a medal winner may not necessarily win the next time, they must still be supported.

My best wishes are with everyone, I hope there are opportunities for all.

Girish, we hope you reach great heights. We wish you the very best.

*Photo courtesy: Arundhati V.


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