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Visionless sports policy leaves blind cricketer in dark

Thu, 08/14/2014 - 16:16 -- nikita.jain
The feat of specially-abled sportspersons who get international acclaim is extraordinary not just because of the obvious physical challenge but several other great odds, such as official apathy. This is what sets Arjuna awardee and Paralympics powerlifter Rajinder Singh Rahelu of Jalandhar apart. While Rahelu managed to surmount obstacles, Gurpreet Singh Chahl of Machiwara in Ludhiana district, a blind player of international cricket and an athlete, left the game because of lack of government support.

Born in Machiwara in 1972, Gurpreet Singh was selected for the Indian team for blind cricket in 2004 and went on Pakistan tour. In 2005, he proved his mettle in athletics also and won gold medal in shot put at the Indian Blind Association and was also selected for the British Open Athletic championship in the same year where he won bronze for shot put. Later in the year, he was selected for the German tour, which he had to quit because of lack of financial support. Even though his sporting career was cut short because of fund crunch, he funded his blind daughter Harmanpreet Kaur Chahl in world youth tournaments twice in 2009 and 2011. On both the occasions, she won medals ? gold and silver respectively in shot put ? for the country but ironically she did not receive any cash reward from the government.

Besides Gurpreet Singh, two more players in the blind athletics category, Vivek Monga and Balwinder both from Punjab, represented India at the Commonwealth Games in Australia and were selected for the Asian Games in Malaysia in 2006. Only Balwinder Singh managed to go with the help of his family while Vivek Monga had to cancel his trip.

Gurpreet Singh said, "A specially-abled sportsperson should be given more benefits by the state government. It is disheartening that we are the most ignored. Students who work hard in sports do not see a role model. Therefore, very good players choose to quit." He pointed out that the government has no policy of rewarding specially abled sportspersons. The state did draft a policy in 2007, but it is only on paper, he said.

The state's 2007 sports policy mentions reward for the handicapped, which applies to only 15 games played in the Olympics. Gurpreet Singh looks at his medals and says they don't have any value. "It is just that we can recall the times we worked hard and followed our passion," he said.

SOURCE: Times of India

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