Monday, 30th October 2017

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World No. 1, ignored by state

Differenty-able champ rues govt neglect

By Shuchismita Chakraborty in Patna
  • Published 8.06.18
INDOMITABLE: Mohammad Shams Aalam Shaikh at the University of Texas during the US Department of State Global Sports Mentoring Programme in April this year. Telegraph picture

Patna: Mohammad Shams Aalam Shaikh (31) from Madhubani now holds the number 1 rank in the 100m backstroke in both Asia and the world as per the World Para Swimming rankings released recently.

Last year, his world ranking was seven in the same category.

Shams, whom a spinal cord injury had left a paraplegic in 2010, said his better timing in the recently held World Para Swimming Championship World Series in Sheffield in the UK has helped him achieve the feat.

The para-swimmer had set the entry target of 2.45 minutes to finish the 100m backstroke but he finished it in just 2.23 minutes.

"I wanted to do well in this series because my selection in the Asian Para Games depended on it. By God's grace, I have been able to do well in the UK tour and this has brightened my chances of participating in the Asian Para Games scheduled to be held in October. I can't believe that I have made it even while being on Ramazan fast. It means a lot if you are taking part in such as big competition where around 90 swimmers are participating ," Shams said over phone from Mumbai.

While he now ranks 1 in the 100m backstroke in the world, he ranks third in the 200m individual medley in Asia and holds fourth ranking in the 200m freestyle in Asia. He also holds fifth rank in both 50m butterfly in Asia and 100m breaststroke in Asia. He also holds seventh rank in the 50m freestyle in Asia.

Shams was eagerly awaiting for the state government's decision of providing him reimbursement for the UK series.

"The UK tour was totally self-funded. I somehow managed finances. I am dependent on my married sister, with whose family I live in Mumbai. I had written to the State Disability Commission and the sports directorate to fund my UK trip but now I have received a letter from the state disabilities commissioner Shivajee Kumar saying he had made a request to the principal secretary of art, culture and youth affairs and that I might be given some financial support by the government soon. As of now I have not got a single rupee. I have also been selected in the Bihar Rajya Khilari Kalyan Kosh scheme of the state government but I am yet to get its benefits," he added.

Shams rued that only around four months are left for the Asian Para Games but no coaching camp had been organised either by the state or the Centre.

"I often feel that people take us (differently-abled sportspersons) for granted. The place where I practise in Mumbai, many big coaches come and they hardly take notice of us. It is only when we bag medals that they make it a point to interact. The worst part is that both the government at the Centre and the state don't feel the need of providing us training.

"However, whenever we bag medals, they start heaping praises and rewards after that," added Shams.

Before his lower body became paralysed, Shams had a black belt in karate.