Thursday, 25 December 2014

Merry Christmas From Typist Who Is Wheelchair Fencing Champion

Merry Christmas from Chandrakumar B

When Chandrakumar B sold vegetables in a Wheelchair in Purusawalkam market, he never dreamed that 10 years later he would travel to Hungary, China, Bangkok and France as a sportsman. Today, as a four-time national wheelchair fencing champion, he has lived out the dream.

The 40-year-old physics graduate and typist with Corporation of Chennai says everyday life is not very different from competing in a fencing suit. Chandrakumar, who won a gold medal at the 7th national championships held in Chhattisgarh earlier this month, was affected by polio when he was 2 years old and has a 65% disability in the left leg. He uses a wheelchair only while taking part in the sport.

He registered with the employment board in 1988 and had to wait for 20 years to get a call for a job. "I was getting older and had resigned myself to never getting a job,". He got a call in 2008 and joined the civil supplies and consumer protection department in Ezhilagam.

That was a lucky year, one in which a childhood friend, Venkatesh, introduced him to fencing. "Venkatesh is disabled too and we used compete in shotput and discus throwing as children," Chandrakumar said. "I took part in a training programme the Paralympic Association of Tamil Nadu conducted at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. I initially thought it was just fun, poking around. But when I learnt technique and developed skills in the sport, I started to perform well, and I was hooked," he said.

Chandrakumar chose the epee over the two other fencing weapons, the foil and sabre, despite it being heavier than both because it allows for slower combat tempo and sudden bursts of speed.

Bangalore-based sports psychologist Shree Advani said fencing is a dangerous combat sport regardless of whether a competitor is on his feet or in a wheelchair. "It is all about outsmarting and overpowering your opponent, which Chandrakumar possibly finds easy because he has mastered difficulties in the past," he said.
Chandrakumar's struggles are similar to those other people with disability face, but he attributes his success to meeting the right people. With support from corporates and Rotary Club and money that his friends pooled, he made it to the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports World Games, 2011, and bagged a bronze - just three years after he took up the sport.

Chandrakumar, an advocate for the rights of the disabled, helped establish the Tamil Nadu Differently-Abled Federation Charitable Trust. "Accessibility is a problem for the disabled, both at the workplace and in public," he said. "We are respected when we compete abroad but feel like castaways as soon as we land at an Indian airport."

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