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September 17, 2012 | Asia Pacific: Bharat (India)

India's Team, Breaking Stereotypes

By Ashok Baride

These young men represented India at the World Aquatics Invitational in Puerto Rico

Libin Baby’s spark and conviction makes him a valuable team asset. His strong kick and quick arms make him a powerful freestyle swimmer. His willingness to listen to his coaches and teachers keep him from doing too much, but push him to his personal best at every practice. Despite coming from a family of reasonable means of a remote village in Kerala and inability to converse except in his mother-tongue, his smile and sign-language make him a darling of the team. He will compete in the freestyle, breast and relay events in Puerto Rico. The youngest member of the team, Pranav Divekar is a Michael Phelps fan and hopes to meet him at Puerto Rico. He too, has been following a tough 2 km swim regimen on a daily basis and would participate in breast and freestyle events. For his parents, it is a proud moment and they are happy that the trip would expose him to the rigours of living independently. Sahil, Libin and Pranav are led by their fearless coach, Sundresh Satyanarayana. He is known to push his trainees to their limit, keep them on their toes and makes sure they are taking proper care of themselves. His concern and encouragement to the trainees makes him a loved and respected coach. Whether they win gold medals or not, the sheer experience is one these athletes are unlikely to forget any time soon. They’re incredible. They’re going above what we thought would ever be a reality. We’re proud to be their parents and coaches. At the airport, before bidding goodbye (and realizing their inability to accompany the children) I over-heard the mothers telling their sons “We’ll be right there, cheering for you all”.

About Ashok Baride: I am the father of a Special Olympics Bharat athlete, Sahile Baride.
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