Tales of grit all set to unfold on track

Third IWAS Games kicks off from today

Tales of grit all set to unfold on track


Underlining their sheer willpower to fight the odds, around 634 athletes from 43 countries have assembled in the city and they will be fighting it out for medals in ten sports. Just by being here, they have proved a point but there is more to come, with the men and women keen to show the world that they are equally competent like any normal athlete.

“We are here to forget our past. We want to show the world that we are like other normal people. Our disability is our strength. You can see the competitive edge of the athletes here once the games start. See how they practice. They waste no time. They are keen to perform well,” said Austria’s coach Michaels Secinger, while other athletes and coaches echoed similar sentiments.
While many of the participating athletes including defending champions China underwent practice sessions at the newly laid Sree Kanteerava track on Monday evening, Indians were conspicuous by their absence, as they have been hit by the absence of race wheelchairs.

“We can’t hope to win medals in track events because we don’t have race wheelchairs. None of the Indians have a race wheelchair which costs around three lakh rupees,” said three-time Paralympian Gurung Nir Bahadur, who will be competing in the shot put and discus throw.

However, the Indian table tennis team was upbeat about their chances. One of the players, Praghya Ghilal, confined to the wheelchair after suffering a two-wheeler accident four years back, said:
“We underwent training in London for one-month which was good. Our squad has five women and we are confident of putting up a good show here. Chinese Taipei are difficult to beat but we will try our best,” said Praghya, the national wheelchair table tennis champion.

With only a day to go for the opening ceremony, many grey areas are still to be addressed. Though the main venue is almost ready, toilets are far from clean while the work at the indoor stadium is still going on.

“I am pretty confident that things will be in place before opening ceremony. The event will be held successfully,” assured Games Technical Director Jan Bockweg.
Some of the athletes also expressed concern over the new track. “If I say the truth, the track is not that good. It is not fast. But we are here to give our best because it is the place where we forget our past. So we have no complaints,” Beijing Paralympic marathon champion and world record holder, Austria’s Thomas Geierspichler said.

Glitches on the organisational front were all to obvious. The Czech Republic team, for instance, was stranded outside the stadium without anybody to help them out. “We were stuck in the hotel for two days. None of the organisers came to help us. Today hotel people arranged us a taxi and we came to the stadium. We don’t know where to go or whom to contact. It’s terrible,” said Czech athlete Martins Nemec.
Meanwhile, Iran have pulled out due to swine flu. Competitions will be held in 10 disciplines while wheelchair rugby will be held as a demonstration sport.
 Cultural programmes by school children and musical entertainment by Vasundhara Das and group will add colour to the opening ceremony at the Kanteerava Stadium on Tuesday evening.

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