They played and competed against athletes from more than 160 countries and came back with 173 medals. This was India’s incredible story from the 2015 Special Olympics in Los Angeles, USA.
Among the achievers was Shrey Kadian, a softball player. In the quarterfinal at the Games, Kadian would strike the winning runs and scream out in joy. A natural emotion shown by most of the athletes, isn’t it? But things are a little different with Kadian.
The 23-year-old could not speak till the age of seven, so the scream he let out two years ago at the global stage was more than what he wanted to express. “It was one of the best moments of my life. I will never forget it,” says Kadian, whose journey to greatness is a story of grit and courage.
“Yes, we beat Australia. But moreover, it felt like I belonged there. At the biggest stage.”
Kadian was barely a year old when his parents began to notice that their child was not uttering words like others his age. “Till he turned a year old, things were fine. He would say a few words, but as he grew old, his words stopped,” recalls Kadian’s mom Shalini. “Honestly, our only priority then was to get him to talk. That’s all.”
They would take their child to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and doctors there would recommend Mata Bhagwanti Chadha Niketan (MBCN), a school for special children in Noida, for the young Kadian. It was here that Shrey was introduced to Special Olympics Bharat (SOB), an organisation backed by the Central Government that uses sports as a catalyst to transform the lives of children and adults with intellectual disability. This move would work wonders in Kadian’s life.
The inspirational Yuvraj Singh
At MBCN, Kadian was helped and encouraged to get over his speech disability. He was introduced to activities like football, cricket and cycling. He would then be pushed to join the SOB cricket camp and later go on to represent India at the inaugural Asia Pacific Regional Games in 2013, winning a silver medal there.
A fast bowler by nature, Kadian says he’s a huge Shoaib Akhtar fan. But it’s Indian sensation Yuvraj Singh who has inspired this young man to achieve big. “I love Shoaib Akhtar; he bowls fast and I like his aggression," mentions Shrey. “But I look up to Yuvraj. He showed exceptional fighting spirit in the way he conquered cancer and his story has always inspired me.”
Kadian’s exploits aren’t restricted to the playing field alone. The Noida lad participated in the Athletes Leadership Conference in Singapore last year and also co-anchored the farewell ceremony for the Indian contingent that participated in the Special Winter Olympics in Austria a few months ago.
An athlete above all
Kadian believes SOB has played a huge role in making him the athlete that he is. “I was treated like just another athlete, that’s the best part. They loved and cared for me and I will always be indebted to them,” he says.
In recent times, he has led the Delhi softball team and is also a cricket and softball coach. “I am always actively involved in game strategies and planning and I am hoping to pass on my experience to youngsters and bring more glory for India,” he says.
With his paramount work ethics and the simplicity with which he treats everyone at work, for Kadian, the sky is definitely the limit.