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Ankur Dhama: The Blind Runner

Blog by: Raj Kishan..

We have too much inspiration around us; we just have to look for them to get motivated. Ankur Dhama is one such phenomenon. Ankur, 22, is a blind athlete, in fact, country’s first blind athlete in 30 years to participate at Paralympics.

Ankur comes from a small village in Uttar Pradesh. He runs middle distance races (800m and 1500m heats) in the T-11 category. His started suffering gradual vision loss when he was five years of age and by the time he turned 6, Dhama’s eyesight had completely failed. About his condition he says, “Doctors said it was due to an injury but I’ve no idea when that happened. I’ve been operated upon seven or eight times but my vision can’t be restored or even improved.”

On advice of his of his doctor, he moved to Delhi and attended JPM Senior Secondary School for the Blind at Lodhi Road. He has been always attracted towards sports. In school, he learned about The Indian Blind Sports Association. He started participating in the events organized by them. He was in school when he first competed internationally.

 Ankur enrolled in the prestigious St. Stephen’s College after finishing his school, while simultaneously pursuing his passion for sport. But, things would have been different; coming from a farmer’s family, it wasn’t easy to afford all the expenses. Dhama would have been unable to compete at international level if not for his coach, Dronacharya Awardee Satpal Singh. “Training under Satyapal sir transformed my sports career. Not only has his training helped me improve my timing, he has paid the expenses for my equipment, diet, travel, and stay in several events out of his own pocket. I wouldn’t be winning medals for my country if not for him.”

Athletes are dependent on their guides in blind running and athletics. Guides run alongside holding one end of a rope while para athlete holds the other; this is to provide the athlete with sense of direction and help them with obstacles. So, coordinating with guide, sensitizing to different distances, working with equipments is essential. Ankur’s guide is Vipin Kumar, who himself is a national level runner. Ankur is very thankful to his guide, “My guide, who is national level athletes himself, don’t get the recognition for the win and I can’t afford to pay them for their help. He helps me out of sheer goodwill and kindness and I thank him immensely for it. In their absence, I would be unable to compete in any event.”

Unfortunately, just over 5 seconds into 1500m heats at last year’s Paralympics, Ankur’s guide runner Vipin Kumar took a fall after being pushed by Turkey’s Semih Deniz from behind. Because of that, he lost out on vital seconds, thus he could only manage to clock 4:37.61 as opposed to his personal best of 4:17. With only the group winners and three fastest losers qualifying for the final, a second-place finish wasn’t enough for Dhama. “It was a crushing feeling,” he says, “I knew my guide runner wasn’t to be blamed so I buried the sea of pain within.” Understandably, he was hurting but he hasn’t given up.

Though Rio Paralympics didn’t end as planned, Dhama already has many wins to showcase.

Achievements:

  • 2 Gold medals (800m and 1500m) at the 2017 Para Nationals, Jaipur
  • 1 silver (800m) and 2 Bronze medals ( 1500m and 5000m) at the 2014 Para Asian Games in Incheon, Korea
  • Gold in 1500m and bronze medal in 800m at the 2014 Sharjah Open Championship in UAE
  • Silver in 800m and bronze in 1500m at 2014 Fazza International Athletics in UAE
  • Represented India at Thailand Football Championship. He is the first person to score a goal for India in an International football tournament for blind
  • 2 Gold medals (800m and 1500m) at the 2012 Malaysian Open Championship in Kuala Lumpur.

Ankur is still young and has a long way to go. His loss at Rio, haven’t wavered his determination. So, why do we give up so easily? Let’s learn from Ankur, and keep running!

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