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Andhra boy shines bright, overcomes darkness

- Visually impaired Ramesh Parapati bags 3 silver medals at national weightlifting meet in Assam
Ramesh Parapati with his silver medals in Guwahati on Monday. Picture by UB Photos

Guwahati, Dec. 23: Short and stocky Ramesh Parapati cannot see. But the 15-year-old from Andhra Pradesh yet again proved that visual impairment cannot inhibit physical prowess or will power, bagging three silver medals at the 9th National Youth (boys & girls) Weightlifting Championships, currently under way here.

Accompanying him at every step is his friend, philosopher and guide — A. Ravikumar, a physical education teacher — who discovered “something special” in Ramesh, a student at the Government Residential School for the Blind at Ponduru, three years back.

The 48-year-old, currently posted at Vishakapatnam, is a proud man. His protégé has responded with his first medal haul at a national meet today.

“It’s no mean triumph. He competed with athletes who had the advantage of vision,” Ravikumar told The Telegraph today.

Ramesh, who excels in general knowledge, won silver in the 75kg snatch and 97kg clean and jerk for an overall tally of 172kg.

And how did the association start?

“The boy has a muscular build which I noticed during the physical training classes three years back. I decided there and then that I would adopt him. His parents at Ponduru, a nondescript hamlet in Srikakulam district, agreed to my request. So despite financial constraints, I started grooming him, albeit informally. He began with iron bars, which at times cause rashes, as the training gear was beyond my means,” Ravikumar said.

Ramesh has won medals in state and district championships since he took up the sport.

Asked what he aspires to now, the soft-spoken Ramesh tells his “father” (in Telegu), “I want to compete in the Paralympics at Rio de Janeiro in 2016.”

The duo are optimistic but craving for government support.

The Andhra Pradesh Weightlifting Association, for its part, has taken cognisance of his special abilities. “He’s a rare talent for sure. The association will definitely help the boy with financial aid through our district units,” B. Venkataramaiah, secretary of the association, said.

Ravikumar, who has three teenaged daughters, also knows that without institutional support Ramesh’s dreams cannot materialise.

“As it is, the Rs 1,000 I am spending on his diet every month is not enough, which is why his weight has not gone past the 47.25kg mark in two years. This will affect his performance. If a school like the Army Sports Institute (ASI), Pune, enrols him, my job would be complete, I feel,” he said.

“Our mission is to scout and select candidates who can excel in sport and be enrolled for service. A medical test is mandatory. Ramesh is a rare talent but the fact that he is visually impaired means he will not be able to serve the armed forces. However, I will definitely take up his case with my seniors,” Lt Col Sameer Choudhury, talent scouting officer, ASI, said.