Funds crunch hits skating champ’s training

New Delhi, July 24 (IANS) Special Olympics gold medallist figure skater Rajkumar Tiwary said on Friday that an acute funds crunch has halted his training and that repeated pleas for financial help to various sources have evoked no response.

Rajkumar is a Special Olympics gold medallist in ice skating having won the medal last year. He won the gold in the singles event and a silver in the pairs category.

He was diagnosed with moderate mental retardation and hyperactivity disorder at an early age but that hasn’t stopped him from dreaming big and winning in the Special Olympics, a competition for athletes with intellectual disabilities.

Rajkumar, the son of a street hawker, is scheduled to participate in the 2015 Asian Open Figure Skating Trophy from August 5-8 in Bangkok, Thailand, but said he is not able to focus on his training because of the acute financial problem.

“Their is a big problem of funds which has interrupted my practice and I have to work hard as a hawker all day to earn my living,” Rajkumar told IANS over phone on Friday.

“I have gone door-to-door seeking help but no one has come to my rescue so far. I have won so many medals and made my country proud but still it seems it is not enough to get monetary assistance.”

The skater, who lives in the Capital’s Paharganj area, earns his daily livelihood by assisting his father to run their Sadar Bazar street shop. He fears his sporting dreams may end prematurely should his financial problem not be solved, adding he still wants to continue pursuing his passion.

“I have to shell out Rs.80,000 to participate in Bangkok and need around Rs.4.5 lakh for training under a foreign coach but I am nowhere close to meeting these needs,” he said.

The 22-year-old athlete gets a monthly allowance of Rs.16,000 for practice from public enterprise Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) since last year but that is a mere pittance to what is required.

“ONGC gives me Rs 16,000 per month for my training and an NGO Special Olympics Bharat has given me a sum of Rs 25,000 but that is just not enough,” he said.

He said all his efforts have met with little encouragement from the Ice Skating Association of India which has even failed to provide him with a proper training ground.

The association hasn’t provided any money for the upcoming competition but verbally agreed to provide a fraction of his requirement on his return from the meet, he said.

“Not only money, the association doesn’t even help me with a training ground. I train in Ambience Mall in Gurgaon where I train at a subsidised rate of Rs.150 per hour.”

“The Ice Skating Association Of India told me that they will pay Rs.15,000 after I return from the competition,” he claimed.

The association, when asked to react to Rajkumar’s allegations, said its hands were tied since they have to cater to the needs of seven participating athletes in the Bangkok meet.

“We have sent his entry to the competition and his expenses will be around Rs.80,000. We will give him Rs.15,000 and the rest he has to manage on his own. We have to provide support to all the seven participating athletes and not focus on one.” Col. Narang, director, Ice Skating Association Of India, told IANS over phone on Friday.

Rajkumar’s brother Vivekanand also highlighted this apathy claiming to have written several letters to the Sports Authority of India (SAI) but is yet to get any response.

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