At the height of his game
Meet Kumar Manikandan, India's first gold medallist at the Paraclimbing World Championship
Most of us, at some time or the other, try our hand at adventure sports. A large percentage continues it merely as a weekend passion or gives it up altogether. However, for this 26 year-old from Bangalore, rock climbing has become a way of life and a path to earn glory for the country.
At the International Federation of Sport Climbing’s Paraclimbing World Championships held at Paris in September, Manikandan won gold in the Men’s Arthritis and Neurological Physical Disability category.
Afflicted by polio in his right leg, Manikandan, also known as Mani Roger, took up rock climbing a decade ago at a wall-climbing camp near his home in Bangalore. Initially, he used his hands to lift his affected leg, but now has enough strength in his arms to lift his whole body up. For the last few years, Manikandan has trained without a coach, despite which he has won many medals.
He says, “I train for four hours a day — two hours in the morning and two in the evening.” Kumar often competes with able-bodied climbers. At last year’s National Climbing Championships, held in New Delhi, Kumar finished in the top 10.
Paris was an exciting experience.
He says, “This was my first visit to Paris. I was happy to compete. I was well prepared and, after the first round, I knew I could win. I kept my mind strong, which is the most important thing.” Manikandan was not able to interact much with fellow athletes because “it’s a competition so people were busy with their own things”. However, he learnt many new techniques of climbing, which he hopes to implement in India.
Manikandan’s mother, who makes incense sticks, was unaware of the magnitude of her son’s achievement but is thrilled now.
“My family did not know what the sport was, they just knew that I was climbing. Now they know the importance of my medal,” the Bangalore resident adds.
He has a small business dealing with climbing gear and is now eyeing the top spot at the 2013 Paraclimbing World Cup that will take place either in Spain or Italy. He also hopes that by 2020, climbing is included in the Olympics.
Life after his win has changed for the better. He says, “Earlier, my friends would support me financially, but now I manage on my own. After my win, many people have understood what climbing is. We can see improvements in India now.”