Two students from the Draktsho Vocational Training Centre have bagged gold and silver medals at the Special Olympics World Games which was held at Berlin, Germany. However, the Executive Director of Draktsho, Deki Zam, said that it has not been without challenges and that the disabled who bring home such laurels are not acknowledged.
17-year-old Nima Yeozer, a student at Draktsho Vocational Training Centre and a person with intellectual disability, has achieved great success in the field of athletics. He won two gold medals in the 100-meter race and shot-put events.
Similarly, another athlete with intellectual disability, 18-year-old Dechen Peldon, secured a silver medal in the women’s shot-put category and they were all athletes under the Special Olympic Bhutan.
The executive director of Draktsho, Deki Zam, expressed her admiration for the athletes’ performance. She said that the athletes underwent a rigorous selection process, progressing from quarterfinals to semifinals and finally to the grand finale.
She said that Nima’s performance was very well as he flawlessly executed all of his throws without any mistakes or faults.
However, the executive director said that the main challenges faced is in finance, where they have had to manage their own finance.
The organization currently manages their own finances as it is not registered under any sports organization. Nevertheless, the executive director said that they putting their efforts to affiliate with the Bhutan Olympic Committee to address the issue.
The executive director said that during the 2015, special Olympic, they were supported by their Majesties. However, in 2019 and this year, they have had to rely on their own funds, making financial sustainability a major challenge.
Further, she added that this year due to the fact that it is a post Covid period, it had been more challenging. She added that it is very difficult to raise funds within Bhutan.
Regarding the achievement and success, the director shared the positive impacts that sports achievements have on the athletes. “Winning medals not only boosts their self-esteem but also instills confidence in them.”
For instance, the executive director shared that several athletes who have brought home medals from previous events had even started their own businesses and some even become advocates for persons with disabilities.
“Participating in international events provides the athletes with eye-opening experiences,” the executive director added.
However, the executive director also shared the lack of recognition and acknowledgment for athletes with disabilities in the country.
The executive director said, “The winner of the Asian games, body builders and all those other events are being recognized. People without disabilities are acknowledged and recognized. But when our athletes with disability, even if they win at the highest level in the sports they are hardly recognized.”
The executive director shared that they deserve acknowledgment and recognition for their remarkable achievements. She also expressed disappointment regarding the insufficient acknowledgment and encouragement received so far.
However, they are hoping that from this year onward, persons with disabilities will be recognized and acknowledged just as others are.
The Special Olympics World Games, is a prestigious international sporting event for athletes with intellectual disabilities, offers various sports disciplines. This year, Bhutan participated in the track and field events, represented by four students from Draktsho. Over 7,000 athletes from approximately 170 countries competed in 24 different sports disciplines at the event.
Nidup Lhamo from Thimphu