A gold medal in the high jump, men's 800 metres, and 1500 metres at the district level, Vinodh has several feathers to his cap of achievements as an athlete.
As he talks about his accomplishments, there is a ring to his voice that can immediately take you back 28 years ago, when a young boy from Chintamani, a small town in Karnataka was prepping to move to the city to chase his dreams.
Vinodh moved to Bengaluru, to pursue his higher education and to also explore opportunities in sports.
However, limited means changed his course of direction, he had to direct all his attention to his education during pre-university days.
In the second year, a determined Vinodh joined the Youth of Unity Vitality and Awareness (YUVA), a sports training organization in the city which was a silver lining to his life. Under the guidance of the chief coach, Sunil Kumar, Vinodh was intensively trained.
Little did he know, after 20 years, when he would be settled in his life and still feel the void of racing pulses and the rigorous drill, he would come back to the organization.
Two years of intensive training and a certification course from the athletic institution helped Vinodh clinch the title of an assistant coach in YUVA.
As a coach, he did not want to do the ordinary. "I was passionate and willing to do the different. I wanted to do the impossible, out of the box," remembers Vinodh.
He started training physically handicapped athletes— blind, specially-abled or mentally challenged.
"It was a challenge and I had challenged myself. Training the differently-abled is a lot more difficult than the fit ones. I had to first learn how to train them, each one with their own set of unique conditions," said Vinodh.
When asked about how did he come up with this "out of the box" idea, Vinodh shared a story when he encountered two sports enthusiasts on the field — a partially blind and a completely blind. The two young men were keen on training and wanted to participate in competitions.
"They looked extremely passionate. The boys told me that they could not find any coach to train them, neither in the city nor in the state. I thought maybe this was the opportunity I had been looking for," exclaimed Vinodh.
He had to start from scratch, the basics. It is easy when a coach demonstrates the steps and the trainees follow him but Vinodh had to help his specially-abled trainees with positions, feet and hand placements.
"Technical skill improvisation was the most difficult part of the process. I had to hold their legs and not just instruct them. It is especially difficult with female trainees," said the coach.
With two students, the numbers started adding up until he had around 40 students under his programme. With training and assistance, the athletes started reaching nationals in their respective categories.
Vinodh explained that his students were thrilled with the experiences of competition. It was something that did not get them sympathy but treated them with respect for their skills.
"I had to read a lot of books and consult different people to understand and come up with a training programme for each one of them. Everything needed to be chalked out — nutrition, diet, gear and finances. Financial constraint was staring at us in the eye," described Vinodh.
Specially-abled athletes faced financial difficulties. They were students living in hostels, with limited resources. Vinodh, later, revealed that he never charged these students, not even a penny.
"It was a service, not a business for me. When a blind athlete can complete a race without tripping, without a guide runner, that's an achievement! That's what instilled confidence in me and my students," Vinodh said.
What comes as a surprise in Vinodh's journey is the fact that he did not sever ties with is students. The students started graduating and looking for jobs and because of their conditions were not easily finding a place.
However, Vinodh stepped in, he helped his students find jobs through his associations. He helped them prepare for the interviews and clinch it, get ahead in their career.
He helped them connect with the NGOs that train the physically challenged to function in the ordinary setting, be it using a computer or speaking with clients. Vinodh toiled hard to help his students become independent and find a niche in society.
"I want to build a stadium that is well-equipped for the physically challenged. A one-of-its-kind stadium in Bangalore. That is my dream," he shared
"I want to tell people not to feed on the vulnerabilities of such people. Help them without a selfie. I want to see society changing and I am working towards bringing the change," Vinodh said.
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