M3 Features

Kolkata girl returns with Special Olympics gold

August 11, 2015

Behala's special athlete Supriya Saha made Bengal proud by winning a gold medal at the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games that ended in Los Angeles on August 2. The teenager won the gold in the 800m walk category and came fourth in the 400m walk. Supriya, who represented Mentaid, an institution for the mentally disabled, was the only woman athlete from Bengal.

Her mentor and principal of Mentaid, Dipa Banerjee, was exalted by her protege's performance: "I was sure that she would top in one of the categories. I think this sort of international platform provides support to the promotion of the intellectually challenged."

The Indian delegation departed from the four metros last month. Supriya's mother Protima said the excitement spiralled with each day.

Supriya looked happy when the team reached Kolkata airport. "When the others were dancing with their medals at the venue in Los Angeles, hugging each other, Supriya sensed something unusual had happened – she too started clapping and looking excited. We are proud of her," Banerjee said.

She recalled Supriya's shyness during the initial months of training. "But now, there's no looking back for our 'golden' girl."

The Special Olympics was created for athletes with intellectual disabilities, like Asperger's and Down’s Syndromes. This time, there was a broad spectrum among the 6,500 athletes who came from 165 nations. The World Games were held in Los Angeles for the first time in four decades.

Banerjee spoke of how the Special Olympics movement has helped people like Supriya overcome challenges and broadened their daily lives. "In a podium like that you can just be you, you don't have to hide anything and can push beyond your boundaries," she said.

Protima said, "Until now Supriya didn't make many friends on her own, but when she came here she met a lot of people and tried communicating with them. My daughter has become more independent, more sure of herself."

Supriya's father Balaram said she wasn't aware of the feat she has achieved.

"All of us vary in our experience level with Special Olympic athletes. People with intellectual disabilities and people without them are more alike than different. Athletes with intellectual disabilities learn at a slower pace; however they do learn. Athletes with intellectual disabilities experience the same pressures, insecurities and affronts to their dignity as any other person does," Banerjee explained.


A version of this article was first published in The Times of India on August 7, 2015

Feature image: graphics.dailybruin.com



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