Monday, June 19, 2017

Leg lost to mine, soldier aims for sporting glory


PUNE: Thirty-four-year-old para-athlete Lance Naik Hokato  Sema has been aiming big ever since he won a shot put bronze at the China World Para Atheletics Grand Prix, Beijing in May.
He is the first athlete from the North-East to win a medal at an international event in this category and is currently being trained at the Pune-based Training Battalion (TB-II) of the Bombay Engineering Group (BEG), for a shot at fame during next year's Asian Games.

Originally from Nagaland, Sema lost his left leg to a landmine in 2002, while taking part in anti-terrorist operations in Jammu and Kashmir's Chowkibal. After receiving initial treatment at Srinagar's Army hospital, he was moved to the Pune-based Artificial Limb Centre for rehabilitation. After about two months at the ALC and a year after the blast, he rejoined his unit at Binnaguri in West Bengal's Jalpaiguri district. But he was off the battlefield.

However, in March last year, during a visit to the ALC, Sema met Lt Col Gaurav Dutta, from the paralympic games division of the Indian Army. Lt Col Dutta was immediately impressed with the soldier's fitness - Sema had been a regular at the gym - and as a test, asked him to throw a shot put. The Lance naik reached 9.2 metres. A convinced Dutta put him on a routine and soon, brought him in for more training.

"I had advised him to practice at the unit which he did sincerely. Impressed with his dedication, his Commanding Officer (CO) released him for the sports training in October," Dutta told And in the second week of October, Sema joined the Artillery Centre at Hyderabad where he received basic training - on techniques and rules. He was then shifted to the Training Battalion (TB- II) of the Bombay Engineering Group (BEG), Pune.

At the BEG centre, Coach Subedar Padam Giri focused on fitness and tactics. "Within a short span of time, Sema's performance improved during the practice sessions," Giri said.

Sema started off at the 17th National Para Athletics Championship in Jaipur, Rajasthan. His best throw of 13.11 metres won him the gold. "It was my first big tournament and I stuck to the basics while applying myself. The win was a major boost to my confidence," he said.

But the bronze in China was the real test. "I had reached the venue just the previous day and I was unable to acclimatise. That affected my performance and I could only manage 12.22 metres. And despite the bronze, I failed to quality for the Para Athletics World Championships, scheduled to be held in London later this year," Sema added.


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