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Supporting athletes with disabilities: The state has a bigger role to play – The Himalayan Times – Nepal’s No. 1 English Daily Newspaper

By on September 27, 2021 0

The fact that only one athlete was able to participate in the Paralympic Games is not only a sad thing, but it is also a failure for the system and for the country. There are many athletes who really went to great lengths to participate in the prestigious sporting event but were unable to do so.

It is extremely important for Nepal to celebrate athletes like Palesha Goverdhan, who recently returned from the Tokyo Paralympic Games after coming close to winning a bronze medal. She lost to China’s Yujie Li in the repechage final in the under 58 kg category at the Tokyo Games.

The country has a number of promising adapted sports athletes who deserve more attention and support.

Attention and support from that, you may be wondering.

Well, let’s start with you, the reader. Nepal will not become a more inclusive, just and open country unless people with disabilities have a fair chance to participate in emerging and prosperous sports.

Only your commitment can help break the status quo.

Sport is a great way to educate members of society about the rights of people with disabilities, and this article is about the rights, but also about celebrating the achievements and supporting Palesha for what she is: a very talented sport. , who works hard and who succeeds. woman who has now reached the 5th position in the world rankings of para-taekwondo in which she competes.

For this reason, everyone must intervene, starting with school administrators who could organize sessions with national adapted sports not as one-off events but in a structured and long-term way.

Then it is good that the business world notices athletes like Palesha, and that is why the financial support of the president of Sumeru Group, who also happens to be the vice president of the Nepal Taekwondo Association, is welcome.

I would like to see this support go further, and here is a proposal or perhaps a provocation: Can Sumeru Group endorse Palesha as Brand Ambassador? I had already had a similar idea at the end of 2019 and at the beginning of 2020 when I wrote some columns for Perspective, then supplement of this daily.

In these pieces, I was arguing for another amazing adaptive athlete, Keshav Thapa, possibly one of the best para-tennis athletes in South Asia and beyond.

Following the publication of these articles, I tried to get closer to a reputable bank that had in the past supported several high-level national athletes.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work out at all and in the end, Keshav couldn’t make it to Tokyo. Perhaps the pandemic was a big factor in preventing Keshav from competing in the Paralympics, but the economic factor was certainly decisive and, without a doubt, a constant worry for him.

So much so that Keshav had to rely on a generous private sponsor from the United Kingdom, a person in love with Nepal and particularly sensitive to the issue of disability, so that he could attend several international qualifying tournaments. , a prerequisite for flying to Tokyo.

He was really close, believe me.

The fact that only one athlete was able to participate in the Paralympic Games is not only a sad thing, but it is also a failure for the system and for the country.

There are many other exceptional athletes who really went to great lengths to fulfill their dreams of competing in the biggest and most prestigious sporting event in the world, but were unable to do so.

For example, Sarita Thulung, a national para-swimmer who had high hopes for the Games, and she is just one of many.

So I’m not here to blame anyone, but it should be a wake-up call to the entire nation’s sports system and possibly the nation as a whole.

We really need leadership, vision, determination and, of course, responsibility to lay the groundwork for a renewal of inclusive sport.

Now back to my original question: from whom should we expect support and attention to generate a leap forward for adapted sports in the country? In addition to your personal commitment as a citizen, we certainly need a bigger and better role for government institutions at all levels, from local to federal.

The state as a whole has a huge responsibility in ensuring that suitable sports, and sports in general, can thrive.

Now is definitely the time to review and recognize areas for improvement and start planning for the next games in Paris.

Certainly, we need bold planning, a lot of hard work and a much stronger involvement of athletes in decision-making.

Finally, we need the support and attention of people like Bharat Maharjan, the chairman of Sumeru Group.

The private sector, which appears to be recovering from the economic crisis induced by the coronavirus, could invest in supporting promising athletes, especially, but not only, those living with a disability.

With foresight and patience as long-term investors, they can identify athletes who, still early in their careers, can potentially go very far and triumph for the country.

Imagine if every business house above a certain turnover could support a promising adapted sports athlete and a sports peer living without a disability? Such “duos” would project the image of a country that works hard and invests heavily in sport and social inclusion.

Having the engagement of the private sector is paramount because with the business people on board, politicians and sports administrators can be more easily pushed into action.

In conclusion, let us salute the accomplishment of Palesha and all of her coaching staff.

Wishing her the best, let’s hope that longer support materializes so that she can become number one in the world rankings.

Equally important, let’s cheer on all disabled athletes who were unable to make it to Tokyo.

Hopefully, they will manage to transform their anger and disappointment into fresh energy and vigor that will help them set new lofty goals. Please don’t give up.

Galimberti is the co-founder of ENGAGE, an NGO that works with young people living with a disability


A version of this article appears in print, September 27, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.


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