In about three years from now, Bhutan Table Tennis Federation (BTTF) expects to come up with a group of Para table tennis player in the country.
The federation trained five children with disabilities (CWDs), all students, during two-day Para table tennis festival held in Thimphu.
The festival, which was held for the first time in the country, saw some junior table tennis player participate along with CWDs.
The national Paralympic committee is in the process of exploring persons living with disabilities (PWDs).
The committee was affiliated with Bhutan Olympic Committee last year. Since then, two Paralympic athletes took part in third Para Asian games in Indonesia last year.
Coach and administration assistant with BTTF, Namgay Dorji, said that the festival focused on bringing in the CWDs into sports and to provide them an opportunity to represent the country in the future.
“With the start of national Paralympic committee, the physically challenged person have the opportunities like the normal athletes to be at international competitions,” said Namgay Dorji.
He said that table tennis required using brain and concentration. “This would also help those suffering from intellectual disability. Their memory improves and helps them stay fit.”
He added that training CWDs was challenging. “We are dealing with them for the first time and it’s difficult. We expect more CWDs to join later.”
As the exercise and training moved to tougher levels, Choki from Punakha was worried about her son who could not move his right hand.
She said that there were many living with disabilities in the country. “However, many families and relatives hesitate to come forward because of stigma and discrimination. They lack critically important support system.”
She added that the CWDs, if given support, had potential to live an independent and successful life. “They have talent and possess unique potential. There is a need for support and equal opportunity.”
Pema Rigsel, country’s first male Paralympian who took part in third Para Asian Games in Indonesia last year, said that the experience and opportunity to represent country was enlightening. “I got an opportunity to interact with athletes from other nations and convinced me to work hard.”
An official from national Paralympic Committee said that the committee was planning inclusive sports that would enable training and development of normal and sportspersons with disabilities together.
Today there are only four Para-athletes in the country.
There are about 22,000 Bhutanese living with disabilities, according to 2017 study by the Gross National Happiness Commission.
The federation in collaboration with Bhutan Paralympic Committee conducted the festival that ended yesterday.