Para-swimmer Niranjan Mukundan, who has won for India numerous medals at international competitions, reckons a little more support from the government could do wonders for the lives of para-athletes as well as the sport.
After performing handsomely at last year's Rio games and other international competitions, para-athletes are still searching for fame and recognition.
"We have been performing well at the Paralympic level and the government has come forward with some exclusive schemes for para-athletes and is rewarding us with cash incentives as well as training. I just feel a little more support from the government can help us achieve a lot more," Mukundan, who won a National award in 2015, told IANS.
"I am fortunate enough to have Speedo India joining me and becoming my official kit sponsor which now lets me take part in the races tension free," he added.
Apart from bagging several medals, Team Speed's Mukundan recently completed the Golden Quadrilateral by car in record time.
Niranjan, 23, who started his expedition on July 31, completed the gruelling, 5,846 km journey in 124 hours and 52 minutes through Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata.
By completing the drive, he became the youngest and the fastest to do so. The previous record was held by Harish Kumar, an IIT-Delhi alumnus, who completed the journey in 129 hours.
Niranjan's time has been approved by the India Book of Records under the 'Differently Abled to Cover the Golden Quadrilateral' category.
The Bengaluru athlete was born with a medical condition called Spina bifida and with clubbed feet. He has undergone as many as 16 surgeries. When asked about what inspired him to take up swimming as a sport, Mukundan said: "I took up swimming as part of aqua-therapy on doctors' advice. Once I got into the water, I felt like a fish and the rest, as people say, is history."
In the recently-concluded IWAS U-23 World Games in the Czech Republic, Mukundan defied the odds and won eight medals -- three golds in 200 metre freestyle, 50 metre butterfly and 50 metre breaststroke; two silvers in 100 metre butterfly and 50 metre freestyle; and three more medals in 100 metre freestyle, 100 metre backstroke and 100 metre breaststroke.
Asked about the difficulties faced on the road to becoming a successful para-athlete, Mukundan said: "Personally, society thought that, being differently abled, I would not be able to do any normal work like others or lead a normal life. But I proved them wrong by becoming what I am today, one of India's most decorated para-swimmers."