A dream doesn’t become reality through magic, it takes sweat, determination, and hard work! This paraplegic swimmer from Mumbai has turned his dreams into reality with persistent efforts and has set an example for others alike and different.
Mohammad Shams Aalam Shaikh, a para-athlete refused to be struck down by paraplegia and is now participating in the Asian Para Games in Indonesia from October 6 to 13.
About eight years ago, he was diagnosed with a condition of a benign tumor in his lower back. After unsuccessful surgeries, Shams was left paraplegic; now tragically bound to a wheelchair with no sensation in his feet.
He even proudly holds the record of the longest open sea swim by a paraplegic person. He won a bronze medal at the 2016 Speedo Can-Am Para-swimming Championships in Canada and has participated in international events in Germany as well.
Speaking to Indiatimes in August this year, Aalam Shaikh revealed that he wakes up every day only with one goal in his mind that he should be able to win a medal for India. As Aalam pulled his own weight every day, he is now a step closer to realising his dreams.
A month later, an ecstatic Shaikh told us that he was on his way to board a flight to Indonesia for the Asian Para Games, 2018. He had appeared for the championship qualification round in 2017 and had qualified in a variety of categories including 50m freestyle, 100m, 200m freestyle as well as 50m butterfly and 100m breaststroke.
“I had won five gold medals during my selection trials and I was hoping that I would get selected.” However, Shaikh was informed of his participation in the Indonesian Asian Para Games only on Friday.
In July 2018, the Indian Paralympic Committee, the main body responsible for selecting athletes to represent India had conducted the selection trials. A National Coaching Camp in Bangalore was also set up where the selected athletes are trained under the government.
However, due to unavailability of a wheelchair, accommodation for paraplegic persons and assistants, Shams couldn’t take part in the Coaching Camp. He was concerned about the final decision but was constantly in touch with the respective persons in the authority.
Although an official confirmation is yet to reach him, a fine swimmer, Shams is taking part in five swimming events at the tournament which are as follows: 4*50 meters mixed relay,100 meters breaststroke, 200 meters freestyle, 200 meters individual medley and 50 meters butterfly race.
Though Shams and other athletes of the contingent have received a basic kit that consists of blazer, shoes, Indian tracksuit, a professional swimming gear is still needed for him to be able to perform well at the Championship.
Shams Aalam tells us that the Asian Para games demand a proper FINA (International body for swimming federation) approved swim gear for athletes to participate in the event. The professional swim gear which consists of race caps, swimsuit, goggles, costs around Rs 30,000 which is too expensive for the swimmer to afford.
When asked about if he is looking at winning a medal, “We are very strong in 4*50 metres mixed relay category, so I am hoping we might win a medal there.” Shams further said that good coaches, accessible swimming pools, proper techniques and also the general mentality around the sport of swimming need a boost in India; in order to encourage the future generations to take part in this sport.
Shams who would be flying to Jakarta from New Delhi on 1st October expressed his gratitude towards the Paralympic Committee of India as well as his family and friends. As Aalam gets on board with 285 other athletes, he gears up to blow other competitors out of the water.
Article Courtesy – Strangers Of India