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Posted on Feb 14, 08:10PM | IANS
By Santosh Rao, New Delhi, Feb 14 : From the congested bylanes of central Delhi's Paharganj to icy arenas in glittering Seoul, it has been a journey to fame and honour for teens Raj Kumar Tiwari, Suman Chandraprakash and Alpana Jagdish who won golds at the Special Winter Olympics.
Raj Kumar, 18, who suffers from hyperactivity disorder and low IQ, won a gold and silver in figure skating, a sport hardly known in India. Suman, 19, who is intellectually disabled, captained the floor hockey team to another gold as India's tally of medals at the February Games reached 46. And Alpana, 18, who also suffers from the same condition, won the gold in snowshoeing, again a sport few people know about.
Their's is a rare story of triumphing odds at multiple levels - battling not just their compulsions and societal biases to reach the acme of their sport but also overcoming enormous financial constraints to scale heights rarely seen before. Because the trio from Paharganj, a locality known more as budget tourist hangout, is not part of India's elite but belong to families who struggle to make ends meet.
Raj Kumar's father is a street vendor, Suman's a tailor and Alpana, who lost her father to dengue in 1996, is supported by her mother who works as a domestic help.
The trio attend the Prabha Institute, a school for special children, where they met their coach Rohit Manchanda, who was a catalyst in their sporting careers.
"I can't thank people enough... I have had to work really hard but it's all come good. Now I want to go to the Special Summer Olympics," Raj Kumar told IANS.
His father Ramkesh earns just about Rs.1,000-Rs.1,500 a month (About $25-30). The household's major income comes from Raj Kumar's elder brother Vivekanand, who earns Rs.4,000 a month as an electrician.
The severe crunch did not come in the way of the family doing everything it could to provide training to the son, who has always been an athlete at heart.
A small rented room in Paharganj where seven family members are crammed in, is hardly a place for budding figure skaters. But that didn't stop him from fulfilling his dream.
"I had never seen ice before. I started with roller skating but my coach at the Prabha Institute thought that I should give figure skating a try," he said.