Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Disabled in a landslide, Fiji man emerges to become wheelchair marathon racer

From The Fiji Times:

Wheelchair-bound Rohin Kumar (pictured) is a fighter. Kumar was disabled after being caught in a landslide at a construction site in Lautoka in 2007, will compete in the Oita International Wheelchair Marathon in Japan next month.

The 29-year-old was a keen soccer player before the incident. He even played for the Lautoka youth team in 1998.

Kumar will travel to Japan with his coach Elia Matawalu. He met Matawalu during a disabled peoples' workshop in May.

It was Matawalu who urged Kumar to try wheelchair racing.

"As a keen sportsperson I did not hesitate to accept the offer," Kumar said. "The funny thing is that I had never thought of the sport before."

Kumar attended Andhra Sangam School. He was part of the Rangers Club in the Lautoka Football Association local league competition.

Kumar trains daily near his Rifle Range home.

He has never participated in a championship for disabled people but will get his first taste during the Digicel Paralympic Games in Sigatoka this weekend.

"I have been training twice daily," Kumar said. "The emphasis has been on stamina. I have been undergoing weight training.

"I hope that other disabled people take up active sports. Being disabled does not mean the end of life. We have to keep a positive mind and never give up hope."

Financial constraint is a major setback for this minor sport. Both Matawalu and Kumar have been fundraising for the trip.

Matawalu is himself a national disabled athlete. He has been representing the country since 1989.

The specialist field events coach said their accommodation, meals and transportation in Japan would be looked after by the event organising committee.

"We are looking for $4960 for our airfares," Matawalu said. "At the moment we are looking for a sponsor. Our visa was lodged with the Japanese Embassy last week."

Kumar will take part in the 21km event.

Matawalu said Kumar would set the benchmark in Japan.

"This will be his first international competition so he will first try to feel the standard and the level of competition," Matawalu said. "I'm sure he will do his best. This is just the start. He is only 29 so there are many more years of racing for him.

"I always challenge people with disabilities, who are wheelchair-bound or walking with crutches or whatever disability you have, that is not the end of the road. Don't look down at your self and don't ever underestimate your abilities.

"If you are not good in one area maybe you good in other areas. God has made us according to his image and we all have talents and gifts, so why not take the first step and let the Lord continue the rest."

Matawalu first represented Fiji in the Far East Asia Games and won gold in the discus, shot put and javelin events.