Indian athletes win big at World Dwarf Games, bag 37 medals

Toronto: As the Indian consulate in Toronto observed Independence Day on August 15, one group of participants at the celebrations stood tall – members of the Indian contingent that had just won a record haul of medals at the World Dwarf Games in Canada last week.
Dressed in the blue national kit, the 21-strong team was called on stage to loud applause as India’s consul general to Toronto, Dinesh Bhatia, felicitated them and announced they had captured 37 medals at the international competition, including 15 gold medals.
The 7th edition of the World Dwarf Games was held over a week at the University of Guelph in Ontario province and featured nearly 400 athletes from 24 countries.
The Indian team members were thrilled at having competed there, as one of them, Joby Matthew, said, “I had a wonderful experience. I participated in badminton doubles, badminton singles, shot put, javelin, discus throw, and power-lifting.”
Matthew bagged two golds, three silvers and a bronze. As he and his compatriots ascended the podium on multiple occasions, he said, “We are very much proud to be Indian athletes.”
These games are important for these athletes since “this is our Olympics, the little peoples’ Olympics”, said Arunachalam Nalini, another athlete. She was also a multiple medal-winner, capturing five, including a gold.
But being invited to the Independence Day celebrations capped their jubilation, as the team’s coach and manager Shivananda Gunjal said, “This year was fantastic. They have done an excellent job.
“We want to give a gift to the country on Independence Day. Coming here, we have been given so much respect, we are very proud of that. We are happy to give 15 gold medals to the country on August 15.”
Such recognition, though, is rare for these athletes.
One of them, CV Rajanna, who won three golds, had to handle all their paperwork and logistics through the trip. “We have no support from the central government or state governments or any sponsors,” he said.
A majority of the athletes had to take loans to be able to afford to travel to Canada. Despite such hurdles, their competitive spirit prevailed.
Rajanna, for instance, won the 200 m sprint gold while the fastest man at the meet, winning the 100 m, was also an Indian, Devappa More.
As they arrived in Toronto on their way to India, they were unable to afford hotel rooms in the city and sent out a plea for assistance on Facebook.
The Sringeri Vidya Bharati Foundation (Canada), a social non-profit, arranged lodging for them at its community centre and its representative, Brinda Muralidhar, coordinated the visit to the consulate.
She said, “Having learnt of their wonderful accomplishments at the Games and how proud they were for bringing honor to India, I so wanted them to be part of the Independence Day celebrations here in Toronto.”
The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) also chipped in. Muralidhar said, “The team wanted to experience a subway ride. We were so happy and honored when the TTC offered free rides to and from Bloor (Street, where the Indian consulate is located) in honor of the athletes.”
There has been plenty of adversity faced by these athletes through this long journey, but despite the problems they had to confront, they left Canada on the night of August 15 cheerful that they had the Indian flag fluttering proudly 37 times at the global meet.

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