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Volume 2 Issue 23 - December 01, 2004

International arena for disabled sportspersons expanding

DNIS News Network - Live video conference organised between USA Paralympics and disabled Indian sportspersons.

Charlie Huebner, Managing Director of USA Paralympic, and Jeni Armbruster, a medal winning blind goalball player, gave tips to Indian sports administrators and sportspersons during a live video conference organised at the American Center on November 24.

Huebner fielded questions pertaining to funding, marketing and promoting sports for disabled persons. He stressed the need to involve the media in creating heroes and popularising individual achievements of disabled athletes to draw public support and, consequently, funds. He also spoke of cleverly using regular events as a Public Relations tool. Elaborating this point, he spoke of the Boston Marathon, to which the USA Paralympic had sent 97 disabled athletes. The media noticed the athletes and wrote extensively about them, while USA Paralympic did not spend a penny in addressing the media. “All we did was show up,” said Huebner.

Among the Indian audience were George Abraham, CEO, Association for Cricket for the Blind in India , Amar Singh, Vice President, Paralympic Committee of India , Wg. Cdr. P.M. Baranwal, Director, Paralympic Committee of India, Devender Singh, India's gold medal winning javelin thrower at the Athens Paralympics, Rajinder Singh, the bronze medal winning power lifter, and Shailaja Bajpai of Shell India.

Devender Singh and Rajinder Singh complained about the lack of recognition for disabled sportspersons in India. They wanted to know about the situation in America. Armbruster informed them that the situation was not very different in America. Disabled athletes do not get the attention they deserve. In fact, she said, the athletes do not look towards the government for support, but target corporates instead. Many of the corporates which had been sensitised towards disabled athletes were now operating in India.

Answering a question regarding sports scholarships for Indians, Charlie Huebner said that though American Universities were not offering any sports scholarships yet, it was a likelihood in the future. Huebner advised Indian sports administrators to follow the example of the Special Olympics, to which the USA Paralympic also turned for advice on a regular basis. He said that it had vast experience in creating an international movement, and would be an excellent source to learn about promoting sports.

The video conference was timely as the National Paralympics Committee of India (N.P.C.) prepares itself for an Open International Meet to be held in December 2005. The meet is to be organised by N.P.C., and will be a big step forward in espousing the cause of players with disabilities. According to Amar Singh, this initiative is a first for India, and it will host more than 50 countries. “The meet will be held in Bangalore at an estimated cost of Rs 75 crore. For N.P.C., raising this huge amount is a daunting task,” he added.

The meet will be restricted to athletics, but will include disability of all kinds. “What we need now is infrastructure and financial support for training athletes,” Singh said.

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