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Indians impress at the Special Olympics

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indian_team_2.jpgAfter one and a half frenetic days at the Special Olympics World Winter Games, Team India is doing exceptionally well in the snow shoeing and alpine skiing events that they are participating in, and struggling a bit in the floor hockey event.

In the snow shoeing event, the four athletes have completed their preliminary rounds of the 25m race and have been assigned competitive divisions based on their skill levels. 20-year old Ruchika Shah from Gujarat has been placed in Division 5 where she will square-off against two Romanian, an Austrian, an Argentinean and an athlete from the Isle of Man. However with a qualifying time of 8.49 seconds, she is in 5th place after the preliminar y round and will need a Herculean effort to catch up with the others.

Her compatriot 16-year old Pinky Sunil is in Division 6 and did exceptionally well with a qualifying time of 6.46 seconds, the best in her group. She would be a definite favourite for the gold.

The two Indian male athletes in the event Parth Malhotra and Rijwan are both in Division 9. 16-year old Rijwan would be a favourite for the Gold in his group too, clocking an impressive 6.87secs in his opening run putting him in pole position in his group. Parth is a fair way back in 5th place with a time of 7.64secs.

The final round of the 25meters will take place on Thursday.

The same four athletes are also participating in the 50m finals today. Pinky Sunil is an outside shot for a medal in Division 6 having qualified in 4th place. Ruchika in the same division is a little further back in 8th place.

Parth meanwhile is in Division 7, and qualified in 3rd place in his group. Zhaohong Yu of China and Yassin Elhag of Sudan qualified marginally ahead of Parth, setting up an exciting battle for the 50m finals scheduled for 1:30am IST. Rijwan qualified near the back of the pack in division 10, and is unlikely to be in medal contention during the finals.

In floor hockey we are involved in three events - men's, women's and women's unified exhibition (where the teams with special athletes pair up with unified sports partners).

Division 13 for Female competitors has only two teams India & Honduras and they will face off against each other thrice in the competition. Honduras won the first encounter, beating India 2-0.

India will get a chance to set the record straight when the teams play again on 11th Feb.

The Men's team got off to a very rocky start getting hammered by the Uruguayans 13-0 in their opening encounter on Sunday. They then lost to Cyprus 2-0, and finally scored their first goals in the competition during their 10-4 loss to a very strong Egypt team.

They will next take on Algeria and Libya later today in the last of their round-robin matches in Division 8.

In the Women's Unified Exhibition event India have been paired with Honduras & Uruguay in an event format where each team takes on the other twice. India fared much better in this event, drawing both of their opening games by a score of 2-2. Uruguay currently lead the standings, having beaten the Honduras team 4-1 in their opening match.

And finally in the Alpine Skiing Novice Super G Slalom event, two Indian athletes Shavinder Singh and Reena are top of their respective divisions after qualifying, and Megha very close behind in second place in her division. A fourth Indian, Jewan Mishra is also competing in the games.

Ofcourse, for the courageous bunch of athletes participating in the games, the competition is just an element of the entire game's experience, a fact exemplified by the oath of the games,

"Let me win
But if I cannot win,
Let me be brave in the attempt."

Apart from the top three athletes in all competitions winning traditional medals, the performance of all participants will be celebrated in equal measure by calling every athlete to the podium and presenting him / her with a commemorative ribbon of participation.

About The Special Olympics:
Special Olympics is an international organization that changes lives by promoting understanding, acceptance and inclusion between people with and without intellectual disabilities. Through year-round sports training and athletic competition and other related programming for nearly 3 million children and adults with intellectual disabilities in more than 180 countries, Special Olympics has created a model community that celebrates people's diverse gifts. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Special Olympics provides people with intellectual disabilities continuing opportunities to realize their potential, develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage and experience joy and friendship.

Photograph Copyright: Special Olympics