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Paraplegic national-level swimmer and fencer's rocky road to 2016 Rio Paralympics

Vibhas Sen, a paraplegic national-level swimmer and fencer, has to raise Rs 3-3.5 lakh to participate in the IWAS Wheelchair Fencing World Cup to be held at Eger, Hungary, in November. He also needs at least Rs 14-15 lakh to be eligible for the 2016 Rio Paralympics

Representing your country in an international sports event is a matter of pride not only for the sportsperson, but also for the country.

Vibhas Sen has won many awards in swimming and fencing events
Vibhas Sen has won many awards in swimming and fencing events

Such a scenario seems like a distant dream for Vibhas Sen, a paraplegic national-level swimmer and fencer, who has qualified for the IWAS Wheelchair Fencing World Cup to be held at Eger, Hungary, in November.

Sen needs to raise at least R3-3.5 lakh to participate in the event, as the National Sports Federations only sponsor athletes representing the country in Olympics, Commonwealth Games and/or Asian Games.

Disability, no bar
An employee of a digital marketing firm in the city, Sen was diagnosed with polio when he was merely three months old. While he was bound to a wheelchair as a toddler, nothing seemed to deter him from dreaming big later.

“I started swimming two years ago for the joy of the sport and pretty soon, took it up professionally,” said the 29-year-old, who has won two national-level para-swimming events and several other state and district level awards within a year.

“After swimming for a year, I wanted to try out another sport which was more challenging and found fencing interesting. I have trained in fencing for a year now and won many awards and finally, got this chance to represent my country at an international level,” added Sen. Earlier this week, he received a letter from the Wheelchair Fencing Federation of India, informing him about his selection to the event in Hungary.

Dreams in his eyes
Participating in this event will not only add to the gritty sportsman’s many achievements, but also ensure his route to the 2016 Paralympics that will be held in Rio.

“To be eligible for that, one has to have international exposure but it’s sad that the National Sports Federations don’t fund athletes for any other international sports events, which is important to be eligible for Olympics/Paralympics. Hopefully I’ll find a sponsor soon,” added Sen.

Costly affair
The entry fee to the IWAS Wheelchair Fencing World Cup is 560 Euros, and the participant also needs to pay for the air fare, visa and insurance fee. Apart from that, participants also need to make their own arrangements to carry internationally-approved equipment and fencing wheelchair.

“The National federation has clearly stated that they cannot provide us with equipment and wheelchair of international standards will cost around Rs 60-70,000. Even the other equipment will be costly,” stated Sen, who is currently in the process of approaching corporates in order to find a sponsor for his ‘Road to Rio’ project, as he calls it.

He needs to participate in at least five international wheelchair fencing events in order to be eligible for the 2016 Rio Paralympics and this project could cost anywhere between Rs 14-15 lakhs.

“I hope to find one or more sponsors in order to help me with my dream to represent India in the Paralympics in 2016. I will work hard and give this my best shot and rest will be God’s will,” he added.

To make a contribution to Vibhas Sen’s cause, contact him at vibhas.sen@gmail.com

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