A sterling example of fortitude

A sterling example of fortitude

With a charming smile that would give Bollywood heros a run for their money, Aditya Mehta mounts his bicycle near India Gate and announces that he will be riding from Manali to Khardung La, Jammu and Kashmir. One look at his prosthetic limb and all feel compelled to lament over the unfortunate accident that Mehta met years ago.

“Don’t call it unfortunate. It was a fortunate accident. How else otherwise, would I have got so much achievement?” questions the 31-year-old who is today popularly referred to as India’s first para-cyclist.
His achievements include the double silver medals for India at Hero Para Asian cycling championship and also a Limca Book of Records (2013 edition) for fastest 100 kms with an artificial limb.

Yet, it is surprising to hear him say that cycling was just not his focus. “I met with an accident nine years back and my leg got amputated. But it was the sight of a billboard two-and-a-half years back” that changed the future course of life for Mehta who was happily involved in his family business in Hyderabad before the accident that resulted in his leg being amputated.

“A local club was organising a cycling event and I felt sad thinking had I not lost my leg, I would have been able to participate in the event. But I did not let that disappoint me,” he says sharing what was written on the billboard and how he started cycling with an artificial leg after reading about the event. “I used to fall after every 200-300 meters,” says the young para-cyclist who soon learnt the trick and remembered to not repeat the mistakes that were causing his fall.

Though his artificial leg moved everytime he tried to cycle, his will power was quite strong and firm and he decided to design his own artificial leg - light (less than one kilo) and comfortable to be able to cycle.

“Artificial limbs are very expensive. Since I belonged to a good family, I could afford a walking leg and a cycling leg worth Rs 7 lakh each, but many are not able to. No NGO helps para-athletes and though the Jaipur foot is free, but the other limbs that para-athletes require are quite
expensive,” says Mehta propounding “Sports is a must for every specially-abled individual. It gave me the confidence to be what I am today.”

The journey, however, wasn’t smooth for him after having overcome the obstacles once. Mehta says, “Just 10 days before the Asian Games, I hurt my tail bone while trying to experiment with a new technique. I couldn’t even sit due to the pain, but I wanted to be there for the competition. The fact that I was the first para-cyclist to represent India at the Asia-level gave me the strength to participate, even though I had to lie to my father about going to the venue, to be just an audience at the games.”

No matter what happened, he overcame all obstacles and since then has undertaken a number of rides, such as the one from London to Paris, Hyderabad to Bangalore and more recently Kashmir to Kanyakumari.

Through these, he tries to raise funds for other physically challenged persons who harbour the dream of becoming sportspersons. He even aims to open a sports academy for the specially-abled, but he rues the fact that he hasn’t received his cash prize from the Central Government till date.

“There is a provision for able-bodied sportspersons to get not just cash prize but also  a job. Then why not for the specially-abled?” Point needs to be noted!

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