New Delhi, March 9 (IANS) For the champion athlete, adventurer and mother of two, the wheelchair has not been a resting place but a launch pad to reach out to her ambitious goals. Deepa Malik, 41, who has already left proud marks of achievements in national and international sports, is now busy preparing for her next destination - the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.
A paraplegic, paralysed from waist down, and bound to her wheelchair for over 12 years, Malik has proved her unbeatable will to fight at daringly high levels, including the mighty Himalayas.
She is, however, frustrated.
'Paralympics is still in its infancy in India. The infrastructure and facilities for a wheelchair-bound athlete are not so readily available. There is even no proper coaching programme in disability sports,' Malik told IANS here.
For her training in shot put and javelin, the champion athlete had to shift to Delhi from her hometown in Pune.
'Currently, I am focussing on my training. I have hired a personal coach to help me qualify for the 2012 Paralympics,' she said.
Malik, wife of a retired army officer, knows best how to turn adversities into opportunities.
Three spinal tumour surgeries rendered her a paraplegic in 1999. But for her that was a new beginning.
Malik won the shot put silver in the 2011 International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Athletics World Championships in New Zealand in January, the first Indian woman to achieve the fete.
Her 3.59 metre put (687 points) was only behind the gold-winning 3.76 m performance by Mexico's Estela Salas (747 points). Martha Gustafson from Canada had won bronze (3.45 m, 540 points).
Malik had also won the bronze medal in javelin at the 2010 Asian Para Games in Guangzhou in China.
She proved her skills in the pool too, winning silver in backstroke swimming at the Far East and South Pacific Games held in Kuala Lumpur in 2006, the second biggest games for the physically challenged in the world.
Malik's tryst with adventure too has earned her fame.
She was the first ever paraplegic in India to participate in the Maruti Suzuki Raid-de-Himalaya - one of the world's highest and toughest motor rallies - in 2009.
A breakdown on the way put her out of the rally in its second round. But she is ready again to try her luck in the Himalayas this year.
Despite such remarkable performances, there is no major sponsorship for the physically challenged, Malik rued.
'We are not treated at par with the able-bodied sportspersons when it comes to cash awards and job opportunities. Even getting due media coverage and corporate sponsorship are very tough,' said Malik, who is looking for adequate resources to undertake training ahead of the London games next year.
She is, however, hopeful after the union sports ministry's recent missive to her.
'I got the reply from the joint secretary, I. Srinivas, in which he assured that the ministry would soon announce a formal training programme and a cash incentive for all physically challenged players,' said Malik.
'Of course, my daughters Devika and Ambika will be with me during my training camps in Delhi,' she added.
Malik also entered the Limca Book of Records twice.
The first time was for crossing a one-kilometre stretch of the river Yamuna against the current in 2008 and the second time for her 58-km ride on a special bike in 2009, organised by the Federation of Motor Sport Clubs of India.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)