The Indian contingent is back from a highly successful Commonwealth Games. The Games at Gold Coast perhaps, is the most successful Indian campaign, not in terms of medal count but in terms of gold medals won by the athletes. This is the first time India’s gold medals had exceeded silver and bronze. The medals ranged from Shooting to Athletics, Wrestling to Boxing, Badminton to Table Tennis, Squash to Weightlifting. In the midst of all these, there was an athlete who became the lone winner in a certain discipline and that is in oblivion.
Sachin Chaudhury, belongs to Para Powerlifting in which he won bronze in the Men’s Heavyweight division. This year, at the Commonwealth Games, he was the only para sportsman to have a podium finish. The Para Sport was represented by thirteen athletes among whom four were in Para Powerlifting. Asian Para Games silver medallist and Olympian Farman Basha, Commonwealth Games 2014 bronze medallist Sakina Khatun, young-talented Ashok Kumar and Sachin Chaudhury were at Gold Coast after much official miscommunication, lack of training, absence of proper doctor or masseur and most importantly without any consideration. Still, Sachin managed to get a medal and Farman and Sakina finished a commendable fifth.
Whatever may come, these athletes will keep on representing their nation. And behind them remains the constant support of that one person who is considered to be the flag bearer of Para Powerlifting in India.
VIJAY BHALCHANDRA MUNISHWAR, being a sportsperson himself, thought of initiating a programme that would facilitate para sportsmen to achieve their dream. He started Para Powerlifting in India at the beginning of 1990s after he himself won a Powerlifting silver medal in an international event in Australia. Vijay Munishwar, based at Nagpur in Maharashtra, spoke to Sportsavour about his sporting achievements, initiatives, coaching experiences and future plans.
AS A SPORTSMAN
Vijay Munishwar: From an early age, I followed sports- different types of sports. I was into Arm Wrestling, Boxing, Swimming, Athletics and Table Tennis. I participated in national events and won around 54 gold medals in various disciplines.
BEGINNING OF PARA POWERLIFTING IN INDIA
Vijay Munishwar: In 1991, I heard of Para Powerlifting and thought of trying it. I practiced it and within some days I got an international medal in Australia. After coming back, I was determined to start it over here. But I was clueless about how to begin. Then the idea came that why not I should start it in my gym? I targeted disabled people who came to my gym and motivated them to practice with whatever equipment I had in my gym. Thus, my journey with Para Powerlifting began.
PARA POWERLIFTING AS A SPORT
Vijay Munishwar: Para Powerlifting is an adaptation of Powerlifting for athletes with disabilities. It tests the upper body strength of athletes who have lower limb disability but can extend their arms within 20° of full extension during a lift. They lie in supine position on a bench with ankles and hips strapped to the bench if required. The only discipline here is Benchpress where the athletes compete according to their body weight and not according to their disability. So, it is a clean sport where the disability factor plays the secondary role.
SPREAD OF PARA POWERLIFTING IN INDIA
Vijay Munishwar: Since the time I started it, people with disability came to me to learn this sport. Seeing the number of sportsmen interested in this field, I started the National Championship in 1994. In the meantime, the Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) recognized Para Powerlifting in India. I, myself, took part in international events like IPC World Parlympic Powerlifting Championships at Sweden in 1994 and at Dubai in 1998, Paralympic Games in Atlanta and Barcelona and others. So, in this way the sport spread across a certain section of Indian society. But there was always a dearth of fund as we had the least publicity. We had to struggle hard to organize tournaments, training camps or workshops. Still we managed to persist through our sheer will power and courage.
HIGH POINT IN INDIAN PARA POWERLIFTING
Vijay Munishwar: The high point was when Rajinder Singh Rahelu won the bronze at 2004 Paralympics at Athens. He lifted a total of 157.5 kg in 56 kg category. Rajinder was my student and I accompanied him there. I was a witness to that historical event as Rajinder became the first Para Powerlifter to win a medal in Paralympics from India.
HIGHLIGHTS OF COACHING CAREER
Vijay Munishwar: I was overjoyed when Rajinder won the bronze; he was my student. I also coached Farman Basha till 2011. Farman won a bronze at 2010 Asian Para Games. Sakina Khatun, though not trained under me, but she also came to my coaching camps. Among the younger generation, Ashok and Sachin are highly talented. I knew that Sachin would win a medal and he did it at the Commonwealth Games. But Ashok is also a champion and I don’t know what went wrong with him at the Games.
ABSENCE OF PROPER COACH AT THE COMMONWEALTH GAMES 2018
Vijay Munishwar: Yes, I could not attend the Games due to my personal issue. I had to stand beside my ailing mother and I informed the authority about my non-availability. Might be, if I were present there, Ashok’s result would have been different. The coach knows every bit about his student and perhaps Ashok needed some mental strength during his time of crisis. I remember how I motivated Rajinder during the Athens Games. He was extremely unwell with a muscle pull just before the event. But I suggested him the right medication and stood firmly beside him to give mental strength. And he produced the result. So it is important for a coach to be present at a big event like this.
CONTRIBUTION OF PARALYMPIC COMMITTEE
Vijay Munishwar: PCI has promoted this sport throughout. But, now I think Para Athletics is given priority and why not? Devendra Jhajharia, Deepa Malik, Mariyappan Thangavelu, Varun Singh Bhati all had brought medals from the Paralympic Games. But we are trying too. I think, what is needed most, is the presence of disabled person at administrative posts. They are the right people who can understand the requirements of athletes like us. After the 2010 Commonwealth Games at Delhi, India have some world-class training equipment. But we have no access to them. In fact there is a huge lack of proper maintenance of those equipment.
RECOGNITION RECEIVED AND FUTURE PLAN
Vijay Munishwar: I am happy that the Government of India had recognized my sporting abilities by awarding me the Arjuna in 2000 for Powerlifting and Athletics. But it will be my immense pleasure if I get some recognition for my coaching ability too. However, I will continue serving Indian sports and will work towards the betterment of young talents in my country. It is always a proud moment when a student achieves an international medal and producing champions is my ultimate goal.