Deepa Malik, who helms the Paralympic Committee of India, threw light on the challenges faced to improve the condition of para-sports in the country. She also spoke in-depth about the initiatives taken by the PCI to increase participation in various para-sports disciplines, these include, hosting the para-shooting World Cup in March 2024, among other competitions.
Q. 2023 is an important year with the Paralympics and Olympics set to take place next year. Do you think there needs to be more or at least an equal amount of discussion around the Paralympics and what can be done to better aid the athletes?
A. This time there has been an absolute integration of the Paralympics and Olympics. The Paris village will now be called the Olympic/ Paralympic village, and the logos have also been launched together. There is also a collaboration with the United Nations where we are giving equal status to Paralympics. Internationally the focus is there, nationally too, whether it is funding, Target Olympic Podium Scheme, etc, there is a focus on preparing our athletes to get medals for the country. Paralympians are now sharing every stage, and I am very happy that Sportstar has also emerged as a very inclusive organization, where I was made a part of some very important discussions along with heads of other national sports federations.
We are now aiming to double up our previous count of medals at the Paris Paralympics. The idea is to win medals in two digits and bring down our position in the overall standings to one digit.
After Tokyo a lot of love was showered on our para-athletes, they got a lot of recognition, and this goes hand-in-hand with an increase in discussion around equality, equity, inclusive infrastructure, etc. The government is coming up with equal policies for para-athletes and each state government is also now contributing to the growth of para-sports.
Q. With sports policies in India being different for every state and para-sports still being in the development stage would it be helpful to have a central policy with a blanket application to all?
A. We have a very sound central sports policy, but when you speak about individual states, India is a very diverse country, with different geographies and demographics. I cannot say give more prize money or more facilities but I would like to make an appeal that states at least give Paralympics the same weightage as the Olympic disciplines, that itself will sort out the disparity. Also, any infrastructure that is being created around sports should be inclusive, which will automatically give enough opportunity for para-sports to grow.
Q. Since the time you became the President of the Paralympic Committee there have been quite a few changes to help the athletes, were there any challenges you faced along the way?
A. It has been a system of growth, we had to grow, we had to learn, and there were so many things that were still not in place and had to be fixed. We did not have proper digitalization of our sport, there weren’t any data entry systems, and we also had to update our policies. So basically we really had to work to have technology infused into our systems along with introducing sports sciences. However, I would like to mention again, that we had a lot of support in our holistic approach, because when the Target Olympic Podium Scheme came and we saw the results after Rio 2016 when I was inducted, suddenly we got double the amount of medals if you compare it to the Olympics. Now the athletes know the importance of a holistic approach.
The eco-system of para-sports has to grow, we need more technical officials, more educational courses, sports psychologists and injury management specialists. Basically, we need people to understand para-sports, it’s not difficult any coach can become a para-coach, just minor changes and education needs to be inculcated.
I am very happy to announce that we are continuously organizing courses and tournaments. Towards the end of April, we will host a regional tournament for South-Asian countries for para-badminton and athletics. More importantly, in 2024 we have got the allocation to host the para-shooting World Cup, which is going to be huge.
Q. What are the efforts made towards grassroots development in para-sports?
A. For the past decade or so, India had never conducted a single sub-junior or junior national championship for para-athletics, which is one of our main events where we win medals. This year we conducted the first-ever such tournament to recognize young talent. We are also contacting different school sanghatans to ensure they make para-sports an integral part of their curriculum.
Q. More about the para-shooting World Cup
A. There was a time India only had about 70 shooters in total, now at the para-shooting nationals we have over 600 shooters and most of them are also international-level shooters.
We just got the news that in March 2024, we have been allotted to host the para-shooting World Cup and this is the first time I am discussing it.
Again, I make an appeal to the whole country and all the stakeholders, to join in because it is indeed a matter of pride to host a World Cup.
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