From the interiors of Bankura to East Midnapore, 170 participants came to take part in a swimming competition held recently in the city.
The 16th All Bengal Swimming Competition for the Sightless was jointly organised by the Indian Life Saving Society (ILSS) and Blind Persons Association. The competition was held at ILSS (Anderson Club) on August 12.
Many of the participants in the three categories — sub-junior (up to 12), junior (13 to 18) and senior (above 18) — are from financially marginalised homes.
One of the winners was Ashtami Mahato from Purulia, who came second in two junior women’s events — backstroke and freestyle.
Mahato, daughter of a farmer, suffers from congenital blindness. She learnt to swim in her village.
“Almost everyone bathes in the pond. I went there every day. The first couple of days of trying to swim were dreadful. But once you have learnt how to swim, it is the best physical activity,” said Ashtami, who will take her higher secondary exams next year.
Shantanu Mondal, 18, from Basanti in South 24-Parganas, finished second in backstroke in the senior men’s category. An alumnus of Ramakrishna Mission Blind Boys’ Academy in Narendrapur, Mondal now studies international relations at Jadavpur University.
“I learnt swimming at Narendrapur. Apart from fitness, it helps in confidence building,” said Mondal.
Another participant was Ukil Skisku, 24, from Ranibandh in Bankura. Skisku, who suffers from 75 per cent blindness caused by a congenital disease, has been swimming since 2012.
“It is liberating. I did not win any medals today but I love to take part in such competitions,” said Skisku, also an alumnus of the blind boys’ academy.
“Stories of their achievements are a source of inspiration to many. They have pushed their boundaries to be able to pursue swimming,” said Ranjana Nath, an assistant teacher of the Lighthouse for the Blind, a school near Tollygunge police station.
Three girls and nine boys from the school took part in the tournament.
“Only a few get enrolled in an institution that focuses on swimming lessons and similar activities. But most of these participants have learnt swimming on their own, in their villages,” said Saikat Kar, secretary of the Blind Persons’ Association.
“From being a city-centric event, the competition now has swimmers from across the state,” said Shantonu Majumdar, secretary, ILSS.