Be it going under the knife 31 times to remove a spinal tumor and coming to terms with the lower-body paralysis post surgeries in 1999 or the continuous struggle to excel in every sport she participated in, including the silver at Rio in 2016, Deepa seems to have thrived under pressure.
Deepa took charge as the chief of the PCI in February and before she could start her work to prepare the para-athletes for the Tokyo Games, the Covid-19 spread disrupted her plans.
However, she doesn’t believe in excuses. “We have started connecting with our athletes through webinars organized by the Sports Authority of India (SAI). We are educating our athletes through these webinars and clearing their doubts about things like nutrition, physiotherapy, equipment, or information regarding type of wheelchairs to be used et al. We are also inviting abled-body athlete to guide the participants,” Deepa, who is moderating the sessions, told TOI.
“I am thankful to the DG SAI and sports ministry for organizing the webinars for para athletes.”
“Today, we conducted the webinar for para-shooters and we invited London bronze medallist shooter Gagan Narang. I was surprised that he not just accepted the invitation but also gave five rifles and five pistols worth Rs 15 lakh for para-shooters. He has also offered to train para-shooters at his academy,” Deepa, 45, said.
Deepa said times are changing and unlike earlier years, abled-body athletes are coming out to support the para-athletes. “It is a very good trend. Pullela Gopichand has been supporting para-shuttlers and had trained Mansi Joshi ahead of her World Championships gold. Gagan has also been supporting para-shooters. Many athletes including Gagan have told me that they expect our para-athletes to win more medals in Tokyo than the abled-body athletes.”
The Olympics have been postponed to the next year, however, Deepa feels postponement is better than cancellation. “Athletes wait for four years to participate in the Olympics. The situation was unavoidable and I feel it is better to have a new date than not having a date all together,” said the para-athlete, who was received the Arjuna Award as a swimmer in 2012 and the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award as shot-putter in 2016.
She added that the postponement won’t be any excuse for the Indian para-athletes. “In the current scenario nothing is under our control and everybody is going through the identical phase. Using the phase for non-performance will not work as the situation is similar for everybody else in the world. We will look to utilize this time by learning as much as we can,” she said.