The fact the he is autistic did not stop Hyderabad’s Varun Chand from winning three Gold at the Indo Sri Lankan International Master’s Swimmers Meet in Sri Lanka recently. In fact, of the 10 Indian swimmers in the event, Varun was the only one to win three Golds.
Varun owes a lot to his parents, city cop V. Naveen Chand and Aparna Chand, and his coach Suresh, who recognised and nurtured his ability. At 25 now, Varun is also an entrepreneur, who runs an organic store with his mother at Himayathnagar in city.
“It’s a real miracle that he competed with normal people and won over them. We now feel that as parents we are doing what is right for him,” says his father V. Navind Chand”
Varun was diagnosed with “mild autism with moderate mental disorder” when he was five. As a therapy, doctors advised his parents to take him for swimming.
That was the start of his aquatic journey and he went on to win 14 medals, including seven Gold, at various international and national events. “When he started swimming, it was very difficult for him to understand the instructions and the processes involved, but it took years for him to slowly understand all that and now he is a professional swimmer,” says his mother, Aparna.
Varun’s talent in swimming first shone in 2005, when he won a Bronze at the Paralympics held in Kerala. At that time, he was not a social person and preferred to be alone.
Aparna says that participating in competitions and swimming camps helped a lot in improving his communication skills and becoming more social.
“We saw he was improving in swimming and encouraged him. It’s just that we should be a little more patient and keep trying without losing hope,” she adds.
In 2009 National Special Olympics, Varun won Gold in all the three events he participated in and also a Bronze in the Asia pacific Regional Games held in Australia in 2013.
For the past six years, he has been swimming at the Kotla Vijaya Bhaskar Reddy Stadium, Gachibowli. Initially the coaches did not understand his situation as he was different from other swimmers. Then his coach Suresh noticed his ability and slowly started training him in his own way.
In 2015, Varun won a Gold at the Dhyanchand Sports Day conducted at the stadium. Suresh then realised that despite his disability, Varun was no less than normal people and there was no reason why he couldn’t compete with them.
“Without our knowledge, he registered Varun for the event in Sri Lanka in the 25 to 29 age category and Varun was successful,” says Naveen Chand.
The main aim of Varun’s parents is that over time, he should become independent and help others like him. They say that it is easy to put kids with disabilities in care centers or restrict them at home. But when they are handled with patience instead, they become wonder kids.
“They are not like other normal kids, but if we wait we can see their hidden talent and if we focus on it, they can do miracles,” she adds....