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Silent statement in the pool

Calcutta: While the Shikha Tandons and Richa Mishras were making waves at Subhas Sarobar in the recently concluded 57th national aquatic championship, a 19-year old from Maharashtra was making her mark. Quietly, that is.

Poorva Deshpande of Nagpur is deaf and dumb and yet she was a regular member of the Maharashtra women’s waterpolo team which narrowly missed the bronze medal to Bengal. She is not ready to stop here and will represent India in the 2005 Paralympics in Barcelona.

But beyond that, she wants to represent her state in her favourite events, the 50m and 100m freestyle.

Communicating with The Telegraph with the help of interpreter Visakha Motgere, who incidentally is also her teammate, Poorva said: “It’s willpower that helps me overcome the barriers. I’ve to spend extra hours at the pool to make up for my handicap, and I’m never shy of putting in that extra bit.”

But what drew her to the swimming pool' “There are lakes close to my place, and I always had this urge to swim. It was Laxmikant Khandale, my coach, who spotted me at the age of nine.”

She expressed all her gratitude to the coach and also her parents who have inspired her all the way. “My father is a lecturer in college, and my mother a housewife. They always told me I’ll have to give that extra yard and I have always done that.”

She indicated it’s really tough to opt for a game like waterpolo with her handicap. “I cannot hear the referee’s whistle and everything has to be done by looking at the hand movements.”

It is her reflexes that make Poorva a permanent member of the team. “Though she cannot communicate with us verbally, she is extremely agile and has very good ball sense,” Motghere said.

“Moreover, she is a very good swimmer and catches everything that comes her way. She is really a vital member of our team,” her teammate added.

Poorva has been inspired by Bhavana Sharma, one of the senior Maharashtra swimmers. “She always encourages me to do well. And I try to emulate her,” the 19-year old added.

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