Nagpur: Ashwini Atalkar, Differently abled, and suffering from mental disabilities since childhood, can run like the wind! She is all set to run the 100 metre sprint at the Special Olympics World Summer Games to be held at Los Angeles in California from July 25 to August 2. American President Barack Obama is likely to be at the event which is organized by the Joseph Kennedy Junior Foundation for promoting sports for the intellectually challenged persons.
When she was born to Vinayak Atalkar and his wife, Ashwini was not just intellectually challenged but physically fragile too. As her coach Vishal Naik recollects “When she came to us, she was very fragile and her hands were bent and locked. Initially, it was extremely difficult for us to train her. We made her undergo physiotherapy sessions. But she soon made amends, and herself took interest. She was very punctual and used to report for the practice before time.” Vishal is so impressed by her zeal he says ” Her determination and passion to excel is really amazing. Every youngster can learn from her”.
A student of Divyajyoti Special School in Kamptee, the teenager fought all odds and overcame her disability, to get selected in the global event where over 7,000 athletes from 177 nations would be participating. Along with her, two other boys from Amravati and Akola were selected for the event, held once in four years. The Indian contingent will consist of 240 athletes, with 25 being from Maharashtra.
Ashwini, daughter of a peon Vinayak working with the Nagpur Family Court, has worked very hard and dilligently to get selected in this elite list. Her coach has worked equally hard in training her. Both of them would be moving to Mumbai on Sunday, for catching a flight to Singapore and then onwards to Los Angeles in USA. Besides 100 metres sprint, this specially abled girl would also participate in 4×100 relay and shot-put events.
“I want to run hard and win the race,” says the bubbly teenager in her childish tone with hand movements, which few can understand. Only her parents, younger brother Piyush and of course her coach Vishal Naik could decipher her hand movements.
Ashwini had to first clear trials at district level, then state and nationals before clearing four preparatory camps where they grill the candidates under toughest of conditions. She travelled Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad for these trials. Her proud 43-year-old father gives credit for her success to her determination and her coach’s hard work.
“She was so particular that she wakes me up in early morning for dropping her to the school. She never misses even a single day of school. If she misses her practice or school by a chance, she remains upset the entire day,” her father says.
Ashwini is multi-talented girl and draws designer mehendis, and is also good at drawings. “She cooks the entire food on holidays, including making chapatis. We insist that she make breakfast as she makes delicious ones. She wakes up early and draws beautiful rangolis. She is very fond of mobile phone and used it just like a normal persons. She used to communicate with our relatives through text messages,” her mother said.
Ashwini has ben helped by CAFE Ngo of Nagpur in meeting with her sporting and schooling goals.