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In one of the largest Special Olympic programs in the world, India has over 230,000 registered Special Athletes in 26 programs across the country. 45 of these athletes are representing the nation across four different event categories at the World Winter Games.
Parth, the oldest member of India's Snowshoeing team, at age 24, is incidentally the third youngest in his division at the games, which included 13-year old Yassin Elhag of Sudan, who won the silver. But for most of the competing athletes, it isn't really about winning - these special superstars are already winners in the game of life, a fact that Jose Araco of Spain (aged 42) and Christian Schuchter from Austria (aged 40), running alongside Yassin and Parth are a living, fighting testament to.
In the Women's Snowshoeing event, 16-year old Pinky Sunil put in a sterling performance to finish third in Division 6 in a time of 12.1 seconds. Margarita Alimbekova of Uzbekistan and Ksenia Karpycheva of Russia won the Gold and Silver medals respectively in a highly competitive event where less than 5 seconds separated all 8 finalists. Ruchika Shah, also from India, finished 5th in this event.
What was most impressive about Pinky's performance was the fact that she was the only competitor to better her qualifying time by over 2 seconds - having completed the course in 14.24 seconds in qualifying, a time which would have placed her in 6th place had she not performed so exceptionally well in the final round.
The Indian Snowshoeing team which also includes Rijwan will compete in the finals of the 25m race tomorrow.
In an all-Indian affair, 18-year old Paras Bhatia from Delhi recorded a fantastic time of 7.82 seconds, almost half of his effort in the preliminaries to beat compatriot Kaushal Manek in the Snowboarding Glide Division 1 event. In the Division 2 category, there were also only Indians competing, with Ninad Prabhaker showing outstanding form in the final run to win the Gold in 6.64 seconds. Brijesh narrowly pipped Rajender Kumari for the Silver in a time of 13.01 seconds.
Megha and Shaivender Singh, who won medals in the Alpine Skiing Super G event yesterday, repeated their performances in the Giant Slalom today, winning Gold and Silver respectively.
Joining them in the medals circle was young Delhi girl Reena who came in third in Division F05 behind Ninoslava Jocev of Serbia and Pauline Deschaepmeester of Belgium. The win was especially sweet for Reena after her unfortunate disqualification in the Super G event yesterday.
Jewan Mishra participating in Division M02 of the Giant Slalom came in 5th place.
All four Indian athletes will participate in their final event of the games, the Alpine Novice Slalom tomorrow. The Indian floor hockey team will also take the field tomorrow.
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.
The Special Olympics Oath:
"Let me win
But if I cannot win,
Let me be brave in the attempt."
Photograph & Video Copyright: Special Olympics
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