Power and passion

Biju K S, a librarian with a PhD who lost her ability to walk to polio as a child, is a para powerlifter gearing up to compete nationally
Biju KS, a Karyavattom native
Biju KS, a Karyavattom native

Biju KS, a Karyavattom native, lost both his legs to polio as a child. When he was just one-and-a-half-years old, Biju has diagnosed with 50% polio infected. Nevertheless, he didn’t shy away from extracurricular activities. Be it cricket or football, Biju aced the games in crutches. Recently Biju won gold in the 88kg category at state-level para powerlifting. For the last two months, Biju has been working to be his best at the national tournament conducted by Kolkata Sports Authority of India on March 19.

Participants with cerebral palsy, amputees and those born with short-statured legs competed at the state level. A strong upper body with high-level endurance is a must for the competition. “Unlike the normal powerlifting competitions where lifters support themselves on their legs, para powerlifters have to lie down and lift the entire weight using their upper body,” says Biju, who also works as an assistant librarian at Kerala University.

International arm wrestler Joby Mathew, who is also a pioneer in World Dwarf Games, led Biju to para powerlifting in 2017. Working out in the makeshift gym at his home during Covid, with limited resources, Biju prepped himself for the state-level competition. “I have been exercising daily since school. I was always on the lookout for opportunities in sports, not just to excel in the field, but also because I felt it was necessary for my health. Keeping my body fit keeps my mind well too. I want to walk, not be a victim of the post-polio syndrome which is likely to affect everyone after 40. These daily workouts are also a coping mechanism to avoid being fully impaired,” says Biju, who also has a PhD.

Of all the sports he could have opted for, Biju chose para-lifting because he believed in his upper body strength. I’ve been walking with crutches for many years. So my upper body has developed the power to hold the full weight of my body,” he quips.

State support

Despite limited opportunities, para game players are striving each day to ace their game. “For normal athletes, the coaching and selection process starts from the school level. But for para players, such facilities are still lacking,” says Biju.

Without government support, powerlifting is an expensive sport, especially while training. According to Biju, the infrastructure required for powerlifters to train cannot be provided by normal gyms, and to build one in line with international standards could cost around Rs 6 lakhs. “We have requested the Kerala government to set up three regional gym centres for powerlifting,” adds Biju. 

Their proposal also includes the facility to provide funding for players who bag gold, so they can prep for the next level. 

“In other states, the government provides around one lakh rupees to winners. In addition to that, they get coaching, special powerlift training, and infrastructure support. In Kerala, the players have to spend from their own pockets. We hope the government would do what is necessary for us,” says Biju. The players expect a change in terms of opportunities because, in the last Paralympics, India won 19 medals. 

“It was the para players who brought laurels to the country, so we are expecting a positive change going forward,” he says.

Biju aims to open a door of opportunities for disabled people in the country through his efforts. “We are showing the differently-abled that their limitations don’t have to necessarily mean the end of a career in sports. This is why I stayed in this field. It doesn’t matter if I win or lose, my motive is to be my best,” concludes Biju.

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