The chemical engineer from Kollam, who has a congenital orthopaedic disability on her right hand, represented the country in Oceania Para Taekwondo Championships in Gold Coast, Australia earlier this year
Sujina S Babu is not one to let misfortunes hamstring her. Even as the medal-winning para athlete recuperates from a broken left arm sustained in a two-wheeler accident, she makes it a point to utilise the time to chase her civil services dream. “The mishap occurred while I was riding pillion with a friend to college to collect certificates. The only regret is that I’m not able to do any kind of practice now,” says the 21-year-old with a laugh.
Born with an orthopaedic disability on her right hand that resulted in an underdeveloped palm, Sujina, however, considers herself “very lucky”. This unwavering optimism perhaps stems from her do-it-yourself attitude. “I have not let anything hamper me from doing all the things I love to do,” she says.
Sujina, hailing from Ayoor in Kollam, does admit that her condition made her feel embarrassed in her younger days. But the social awkwardness gradually ebbed during high school days when her Physical Education teacher encouraged her to take up sports after spotting her potential. “He contacted my family for support when I was in Class 7. I started with shot put and discus throw and soon started practising hard. I then participated in a sub-district tournament just for the sake of it, but won the second prize in shot put and the third in discus. That boosted my confidence. The prizes changed everyone’s perspective. There were no more jibes,” she recollects.
Sujina S Babu in taekwondo robe
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In Class 10, she tried her hand at javelin and became a sub-district level champion. As a chemical engineering student at TKM College of Engineering, Kollam, she took up taekwondo, going on to represent the country in the Oceania Para Taekwondo Championships in Gold Coast, Australia, in June this year. She has also bagged bronze in the national para taekwondo competitions two years on the row.
Sujina, who has two elder sisters, says that despite her interest in sports and the many hours spent for practice, she has ensured that studies and sports went hand in hand. An avid cyclist, she first mounted a bicycle her dad “customised for my needs” at the age of 10. But a driving licence remains a holy grail. “So far, I’ve been denied a licence though there are provisions for the differently-abled. I even told the authorities concerned that I would get a modified vehicle but to no avail. But I’ll keep trying till I obtain one,” she says with a chuckle.
True grit Sujina S Babu
Sujina says she loves to strum the guitar during her free time. Ask her what her biggest inspiration is and the para athlete says “my experience”. “I have faced different struggles at different phases. For instance, I had to travel alone and manage everything on my own when I went to Gold Coast for the taekwondo event. My struggles have only made me stronger,” she says with conviction.
Not willing to rest on her laurels, Sujina founded the NGO, Nilav Foundation, to lend a helping hand for differently-abled youth in finding sustainable career options and offer skill development courses.
Sujina S Babu will be speaking at the upcoming Nexuz 19 event likely to be held next month. It is being organised by Mar Baselios College of Engineering and Technology
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