Pankaj Soni from Gurgaon picked up a gold in floorball, Rajpreet Kaur from Ambala won a bronze in floor hockey, while Elice Tirki from Ghaziabad bagged a silver in speed skating.
Two athletes from Haryana and one from Ghaziabad have made India proud at the Special Olympics World Winter Games held from March 14-25 in Austria. They bagged gold, bronze and silver in floorball, floor hockey and speed skating, respectively. All the three specially abled players were supported by DLF Foundation under their talent-nurturing programme.
Pankaj Soni won a gold in floorball, Rajpreet Kaur from Ambala won a bronze in floor hockey and Elice Tirki bagged a silver in speed skating
A resident of Sector 17A, Soni hails from a middle-class family and is a student of Class XII in DAV Public School of Sector 10A, Gurgaon. Even though he won a gold, he believes he still has a lot to learn. His next target is IAAF World Championship in 2019.
Pankaj Soni (front row, extreme right) and his team
Floorball, which originated in Sweden, is a variation of hockey, with five players in each team. The game is played indoors in a rink instead of on a field. The rules are similar to that of ice hockey.
“I am elated to win for India. I am thankful for DLF Foundation for providing me consistent support, without which it wouldn’t have been possible to accomplish what I did. I was injured, but made a comeback to help my team win,” said Soni, who started training just about one and a half years ago.
For Kaur, a student of Asha Special School, Ambala Cantt, the win still hasn’t sunk in. She said, “I hope my achievement will put the sport in the limelight and encourage more athletes to take it up as a profession.”
Tirki is a student of Anand Training Centre, a special school in Ghaziabad. She said, “I feel elated on making my country proud. I would like to thank DLF Foundation for reposing their faith in me, and helping me with training and equipment.”
Elice Tirki (first from right) during training
Speed skating is a competitive form of ice skating in which the competitors race each other in travelling a certain distance on skates.
Vinay Sahni of DLF Foundation said, “On behalf of the foundation, I congratulate these athletes who have made India proud. We will continue to empower and support children in various sports.”
“We are thankful to DLF Foundation, which has given these specially abled athletes confidence in life and encouraged them to achieve their goals," said Virender Kumar, director of Special Olympics Bharat, a sports federation.
India finished at the Games with a tally of 73 medals — 37 gold, 10 silver and 26 bronze.