International para-athletes from Odisha rue govt neglect

Bhubaneswar: Despite earning accolades for the State and the Country in many national and international events, two para-athletes from Odisha are left all on their own as government help continues to elude them.

International Wheelchair Fencers V Ramesh Rao and Rakhal Kumar Sethy along with various differently-abled fencers are undergoing training at a Wheelchair Fencing coaching camp inside Kalinga Stadium in view of the 2018 IWAS Wheelchair Fencing World Cup, Asian Para Games and National Wheelchair Fencing Championships.

But surprisingly, these athletes are self-sponsoring their training as the government has not extended a helping hand. Rao and Sethy have brought a Wheelchair Fencing Coach from Great Britain on their own cost.

“The 11th National Wheelchair Fencing Championships is in Manipur in March, the World Cup is in Poland in June and then Asian Para Games for which we are undergoing rigorous training,” said Rao.

“All the expenditure including that of the coach is nearly Rs 2 lakh and we have collected the funds with difficulty. The Odisha government is not providing any support for coaching or development of fencing,” said Sethy.

Coach Baldip Sahota will train them till March 2.

“Rakhal and Ramesh have actually got me as a coach to train and make them ready for the Asian Para Games in October. They are actually trying to go to Poland for International World Cup as well. The problem we have here is that it is very hot and facilities are not that good and we definitely need a frame. So if we can get any sponsorship we can buy a frame and train in air-conditioning units and I think our fencers can actually bag gold medals,” said Sahota.

Such attitude of the government towards these para athletes has come as a surprise to many as the Odisha Government recently earned many praises for successfully organising major sporting events including Asian Athletics Championships and Men’s Hockey World League Final.