The whistle blows and two teenage girls, dressed in the white judo uniforms, lunge forward -- eager to knock the other out. Eventually, one of them manages to pin down the other. It seems like a standard bout, except that both girls cannot see each other. This is one of many awe-inspiring sights at the recently concluded Usha Sports Championships for the Blind 2018, where over 400 participants, including 99 female from 18 states competed in Kabaddi, Judo and Powerlifting events. Working effortlessly to make these national level championships possible is A David, General Secretary of the Indian Blind Sports Association (IBSA). "I am very happy to see these kids compete with each other, argue with the referee for every point conceded because that shows their burning desire to win. That is encouragement enough for us to set up such events," David told PTI. This is a landmark year for the Championships as IBSA launched a long-term programme with special thrust on promoting female participation. "The girls came up and asked me why there wasn't a tournament for them. They kept on seeing boys getting the opportunity and they did not get to play. It is the need of the hour to have female participation in sports. Someone has to take the initiative," he said. "It is the first time we have started female kabaddi and judo thanks to Usha International. We are planning to reach out to the females. In India socially, culturally and religiously there are many barriers, in addition to that the disability is another barrier. "By way of sports if girls and women come out and play, the experience will empower them, they won't stay home after that. Once they are out, that will encourage education, health etc. That is my aim and I know it will work," David added. India is a sports-loving nation and it is the same for these participants.
For some, the pursuit of the games is an important aspect of their lives for others it is a form of entertainment and fun. "I used to play kabbadi before I was blind. I was a district level player. I continued playing afterward. I am also a wrestler and play blind cricket. I love playing," said 20-year-old Hanumant Kundale, captain of the Maharashtra kabaddi team. "I like playing because when we play we are entertained and since it is a form of exercise we remain fit as well," said 15-year-old Ananya, who is playing her first Kabaddi tournament. For coach Lahu Chavan, who was a National level player, it is a way to stay in touch with the sports after sustaining a backbone injury. "I feel very good when I teach them, some of them are older than me but they still listen to me. I had to take a break from playing after I injured my backbone. My coach was also blind. He suggested me to try my hand here, I like it coaching here," Chavan said. Asked about Ankur Dhama, from the IBSA, the first blind Indian athlete to participate at the Paralympics, David says if given proper training and opportunities even visually challenged player can do wonders. "India gets a very less number of quota. You have to be the best of the best only then you get the opportunity. Dhama's story is the encouragement, the crown in our work. There are many more and hopefully, in Tokyo, we will have a female team. "If we are given infrastructural, technical support, training facilities, physios, it will be a great help for these players when they compete internationally," David said.
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