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Hurrahs so special from Down Under

They ace basketball and bocce. They were shunted to individual athletics because they didn’t make it to team camps for want of sponsors. They mocked the odds to set the tracks on blaze in Australia.

Jamshedpur’s special lads Tejender Singh and Abhay Toppo returned to town on Monday with twin glories at the maiden Special Olympics Asian Pacific Games held at Newcastle from December 1 to 7.

While 26-year-old Tejender slotted home the gold in the 200m (Division 19) race, 17-year-old Abhay won silver in the same event’s Division 21.

Besides the medal winners, two other special athletes from Jharkhand were also in the jumbo 381-member Indian contingent that took part in the Games.

Tejender, Abhay, athlete Putul Das (18) and shuttler Rohit Nag (18) made their debut at the sporting extravaganza organised under the banner of Special Olympics International. India won 389 medal, including 111 gold.

The foursome returned to a warm welcome at Tatanagar on Monday morning. Sweets were distributed, while Special Olympics Jharkhand president T.V. Narendran and area director Bailey Bodhanwala congratulated them.

Sports director of Special Olympics Jharkhand Awtar Singh said the feat of Tejender and Abhay had made both Jamshedpur and Jharkhand proud. “All our players did well for that matter,” he added.

Singh and wife Sukhdeep Kaur were invited as honoured guests by the organisers in Australia. He thanked Tata Steel for sponsoring air tickets of the four special athletes.

He conceded that Tejender and Abhay were supposed to take part in basketball and bocce events. “But, we could not send them for the training-cum-selection trials held in Hyderabad last month. Their names were omitted from the team events. We are glad they were allowed in individual athletics, where they proved their mettle,” said Singh.

Abhay’s mother Massima Toppo expressed her happiness. “Abhay had worked hard for the Games. He excels in bocce, but returned with silver in athletics. This shows his ability in giving his best in other sporting disciplines,” the Birsanagar resident said.

Putul took part in her usual athletics event, but shuttler Rohit was shifted to the football team. “Earlier, the matches were five-a-side affair. This time, it was 11-a-side. So, Rohit played in the team,” Singh explained.

Putul’s mother Rita Das was hoping her ward would win a medal too. “But then, sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t. Representing the country is an honour by itself,” the doting mother said.