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In a nation like ours, where achievers in outdoor sports are hardly given recognition, 28-year old Manikandan Kumar, aka Mani Rogers, has become India’s first world Para-climbing Champion.
What sets him apart from the rest is that he has not only broken stereotypes by choosing a less popular sport, but has also broken free from his handicap – he was struck by polio at a very young age. When Mani had started climbing, he was 16-years-old and still nursing polio in his right leg. He would use a calliper for movement and support. However, this did not stop Mani from taking up this physically-intensive sport.
Mani’s journey began in 2002 in Ramnagara at a rock climbing camp. Getting hooked on to the sport since the day he first tried it, Mani went to a climbing camp immediately after his X grade exam. Mani says, “I never had a trainer; I would climb anywhere I could, whether it was the rocks of Ramnagaram, Hampi and Badami, or artificial walls of Kanteerava Stadium. I basically trained a lot with other climbers.”
After ten years of training and hard work, Mani Rogers proved his mettle by winning the World Para-climbing Championship in 2012.
Coaching climbers at the Kanteerava Stadium was enough to fulfil his daily needs, but the champion’s gold in Paris was yet a distant dream, as money was hard to come by. Mani says: “I had to work really hard to get the sponsorship and money. The Thimmaiah National Adventure Academy contributed money, so did the state government and other well-wishers.”
Talking about making his country proud at Paris, Mani said that it was dream come true. “The feeling was out of the world- winning the gold medal for the country,” adds Mani.
The list of laurels he has brought to the country is an envious one. Mani won the gold in the World Para-climbing Championship in 2012. He also grabbed the silver in the World Para-climbing Championship in 2013, twice in France and London. Last year, he won the silver thrice the World Para-climbing Championship in Austria, Gijon Spain and Sheffield London.
Mani has been recognized for outstanding performance by the Association for People with Disabilities, Rotary Club, BEL, Fame India and others. He is also a certified route setter by the Indian Mountaineering Foundation since 2008.
Talking about his future goals, Mani aims to take part in more international competitions and intends to represent India in the open category, which even has non-disabled climbers. He also wants to work for development of the sport in the country — “I really want to bolt, ascend and document more climbing areas across India (and outside), and develop climbing media in the country. I aim to gain further support and exposure for Indian paratheletes in adventure sport,” concludes Mani.
A disease as deterring as polio could not stop our determined and focused Mani from going for a sport that is not only less recognized but also demands massive legwork. We salute Mani for his raw grit and perseverance.