Feat without feet

I am glad that sports became my medium to tell the world that I am fit: Deepa Malik

Deepa Malik, the first Indian woman to win a silver medal in the Paralympics paid a visit to the heritage city on Saturday. She was here to inaugurate the Dasara sports meet. Born in Bengaluru, she shares a special bond with Karnataka. In an exclusive interview to City Today, she shares the journey of her life, achievements and future adventures. Here are the glimpses of what this woman of substance told in the interview.

How does it feel to be in Mysuru during Dasara?

It feels homecoming! I was born in Bengaluru, not just once, but twice! My operation too took place in Bengaluru, where I was born and after the operations, I felt like being born again. It feels great to be back in Karnataka; with the state I share an emotional bond. The love, care and affection bestowed on me makes me grateful to Karnataka. It revives a lot of memories.

You are the first Indian woman to win a medal in the Paralympics. How was that feel?

I have given my life’s best performance at Rio. I had practiced in India. When I had to perform in Rio, I did better than what I had done in India. In a competition of that esteem, performing better than what I had done previously doubled the joy! When I had the medal wrapped around my neck, I felt the happiness of having that historic medal for India.

How is your journey as an athlete so far?

A lot of people helped me throughout the journey. I started as a swimmer under the Paralympics committee, Bengaluru in 2006. It’s been a journey of ten years to win an Olympic medal. I am glad I could return the help, support that I received in the form of a medal.

How were you introduced to sports?

I was an outdoor person since my childhood. I always loved biking, car driving racing, swimming, playing cricket and basketball. When I got paralysed, many doubted if I will ever be come out of a room. I got a lot of physical problems. I am glad that sports became my medium for telling the world that I am fit and happy.

Your husband took retirement to support your dreams and help you. How was that time?

When I was paralysed in 1999, he was at the war. He could see me only after four months. We have been strength to each other. When I got into sports in 2006, he took voluntary retirement and helped me and the children. He became my coach and together we won an Olympic medal!

You are a driver, motorsport enthusiast. How could it be possible?

I told the almighty that you made me on wheels, but I will get the right set of wheels! I love biking and motor racing. I hold a world record in motor biking. I just want to show the world that there is ability over disability.

How was the training for the Olympics?

It was a disciplined training. No medal is easy to win. We had to make many sacrifices. First was my husband’s job. I stopped using social media, going to functions and parties. I worked for about 8 hours every day as I had to improve my record by a metre, which was not easy.

There are no proper facilities for para sports in India. How to overcome this difficulty?

There was instability in the Paralympics Committee of India. Luckily we could revive it in time. We were only 19 participants to represent India. There are hundreds of us who can achieve the feat. What we need is support, CSR activities. We should be sensitive and disable-friendly. The younger generation can really change the face of India at global level.

What are your next plans?

I have to get back to my training as soon as the felicitations and celebrations get over. The World Championship is in July in London. Then the Asian Games are in 2018. I won a silver medal; I want to win gold in 2020 Olympics! I want to make an appeal to the entire nation to have a special sports arena for disabled and make them overcome the disability.

-Interview by Shreeharsha C M

(PHOTOS: Karthik K K)

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