Hyderabad: For a person, who is diagnosed with mild autism and mild mental retardation, going through his routine itself is an ordeal. But Varun Chand, the city swimmer, is defying all the odds and winning medals at various international events.
The 27-year-old Varun has recently returned with three medals, including a gold, in the Indo-Kazakh Masters Swimming Competitions in Almaty. Competing with the regular Masters swimmers, the special kid has won a gold in the 200m freestyle category in the 25-29 age category and capped it with two bronze medals in 100m and 50m events. The event saw swimmers compete from Russia, India and hosts Kazakhstan.
However, this is not the first time he had won medals at international events. He had earlier won three gold medals in the same categories in 2016 at Indo-Colombo Masters Meet in Colombo. In 2013, he had won a bronze in 50m in Asia-Pacific region games. He also won medals at the last three nationals and Special Olympics Bharat in 2009, 2013 and 2017. On the whole, Varun has won over 20 medals at various international events.
What started as a therapy to treat mild autism, swimming now has become integral part of Varun. He goes to Gachibowli daily to train with coach Ayush Yadav. He was earlier coached by Suresh before his journey changed when he met Bengaluru’s Swim Life academy coach Satish, who understood his abilities and introduced him to competitions.
Varun’s mother Aparna says that competing with master swimmers has brought about a change in his lifestyle too. “Generally, there is an opinion that the special-needs kids should be sent to integrated setup so that they can mingle with normal people and develop their social skills. So, instead of going to special schools, sending the kids to integrated setup will help them. And what I have observed in Varun is, since he started competing with the master swimmers, there is a noticeable change in his lifestyle,” she said.
She further added that if given a chance, the special-need athletes can do things on a par with regular people. “I learnt it through my observation that special-needs kids can do things better than others and that can help them improve in life,” she said.
Apart from swimming, Varun also runs an organic food store in Himayatnagar where he gets to interact with customers and learn things. Returning from Almaty, Varun now trains his sights on next year’s World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi and Special Olympics. The preparatory camp of the Abu Dhabi event will start next month.