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Youth set for dream debut

- State chapter of Special Olympics Bharat felicitates floor hockey player on way to South Korea meet

The state chapter of Special Olympics Bharat on Tuesday arranged a grand send-off for Sonu Prashant, a member in the Indian floor hockey team for the Special Olympics World Winter Games.

Sonu (20), a special youth, is a part of the Indian team on its way to Pyeongchang in South Korea where the tournament will be held between January 29 and February 5. It would be the first time Sonu will play at a tournament.

The Bihar chapter of Special Olympics Bharat, which has trained Sonu in floor hockey for six years, organised the felicitation ceremony for the man of the hour and his coach, Sulekha Kumari, at Scada Business Centre.

Sonu and Sulekha will leave for New Delhi on Wed-nesday to join the Indian floor hockey team. The game, which resembles ice hockey, is played on flat surfaces such as a basketball court.

Shivajee, the regional director of Special Olympics Bharat, said: “The Special Olympics World Winter Games is one of the biggest platforms for youths with different abilities who get a chance to showcase their talents in such games. We are happy that Sonu has been selected for the Indian floor hockey team. His association with us is very long. He came to us when he was only eight years old. We counselled him for six years. We started training him in floor hockey only six years ago. Since then he has tried out in many national championships but has never been successful. We are happy that he has made it this time.”

Sonu made it and how! The resident of Daudnagar village in Aurangabad, around 130km southwest of Patna, has overcome lack of resources — his father is a farmer and mother a homemaker; transportation facilities are poor in the remote village — on his way to the Indian floor hockey team.

Sulekha said: “It is a big achievement for Sonu to make his way to the Special Olympics World Winter Games despite the odds. Initially, communication with Sonu was a big problem and I had to face difficulty in training him. He hardly spoke. But soon I was able to understand when he wanted to say something.”

Sameer Kumar Mahaseth, president, state branch of Special Olympics Bharat, said: “I am happy that Sonu has achieved this feat but I am worried about other children like him who do not have the opportunity to get training. There is no proper ground in the state capital where floor hockey players can practise. The state government needs to address this problem.”