This year’s Khel Mahakumbh was filled with joy, achievement and pride for the whole of Gujarat. Earlier this year I got a request to meet a team of specially-abled athletes from Gujarat who had made India proud at the Special Olympic World Summer Games held in Athens. Keen to interact with them, I invited them to my residence and spent two hours with them. It gave me immense joy and I can never forget the meeting. In two hours, I saw in these athletes the desire to conquer the world. There was a burning passion in them to perform wonders. Their enthusiasm was unparalleled seeing which I was deeply moved. After the meeting, I had resolved to do something for these talented children. I spoke to my team in the sports department and sought support from NGOs, associations working in this field.
We used this year’s Khel Mahakumbh as a platform for these athletes to shine.For the first time 60,000 specially-abled athletes participated in this year’s Khel Mahakumbh adding a sense of gratification that words cannot even describe! The number is a record in itself. In the opening ceremony, a contingent of differently-abled athletes led the march past. It was a moment of great pride for all of us. Their success is not limited to their families but to the whole of Gujarat. I am glad to know that many of these athletes excelled in their respective sports.
When Virender Sehwag mesmerized the nation with his double century, Gujarat also celebrated the performance of 16-year-old Kokila Motpia in cricket. With a limited vision, she went on to score 215 runs in a cricket tournament, which was a part of the Khel Mahakumbh! She belongs to Dangs district, one of the remotest districts but neither geography nor eyesight deterred Kokila from winning our hearts with the bat, ball and her passion for the sport.
Double Centurion Kokila Motpia with her bat.
During the Khel Mahakumbh cricket semifinals for specially-abled athletes, one sportsman Sarfaraj scored nine sixes in one match; and this despite being severely handicapped. When such achievers excel, my heart is filled with a sense of unmatched happiness!
Sarfaraj in action!
Maunesh Bhavsar’s story can be a source of inspiration for generations of sportspersons to come. This passionate cricket fan lost his wrists in accident at the age of 14 but his passion for the game continued! His life long injury did not take him away from cricket and in the Khel Mahakumbh finals for the specially abled, he took 2 wickets conceding only 4 runs in an important over due to which his team won! Maunesh showed he was no quitter and he has proudly earned his place under the sun with his stellar performance!
Maunesh Bhavsar performing wonders with the bat and the ball
The other success stories are equally touching! They can fill any face with tears of joy. A 20-year-old shy boy from Ahmedabad named Dipen Gandhi, with one hand and one leg displaced due to cerebral palsy, played excellent basketball and reached the national level. It feels great to know about the feat of Deval Patel, the sportsman with humble economic background and mental disability participating at the Special Olympics! His background or limitation did not deter him from reaching for the sky in a field that interests him.
Friends this is the celebration of talent we seek to have through events such as Khel Mahakumbh! I am of the firm belief that the true purpose of sports cannot be realised until it takes the form of a mass movement. This movement cannot be achieved only by a handful of sportsmen and women. Participation should be broad based, with people from all sections, all age groups and all regions to make it a true celebration of life. It is for this reason that during the inauguration of Khel Mahakumbh 2011, I urged everybody to visit the venues and enjoy the treat that awaited them! I asked them to go out and imbibe some of the passion these athletes display, to be a part of their joys on the field and share their temporary bout of unhappiness when they lose a game. When one does this, one can enjoy sport and the bliss of meeting talented achievers.
The achievements of these specially-abled athletes remain very close to my heart! In them I see a fire that will not extinguish come what may, a passion to perform overcoming the challenges and a determination to take this world by storm. They turned their limitations into talents and went on to achieve finest laurels. My wish is to continue to give these athletes a platform, an opportunity to shine. I do not want age, region or any physical limitation to come in their way of realizing their dreams. More importantly, I am glad that Khel Mahakumbh could play a small part in their large achievement! My special thanks to the parents of these children, and I assure them that the journey of their talented achievers is as much ours as it is theirs! Swami Vivekananda once said, “You will be nearer to God by playing football than by studying the Gita.” Khel Mahakumbh has made these words alive in the truest sense.