Shamita UN can’t tell a gold medal from a bronze. She can’t write or count. But she finds the will to wake up at daybreak and head to the pool for swimming sessions each morning without the lure of reward.
Shamita, 16, has intellectual disabilities: She’s diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), typically characterized by inattentive, restless and impulsive behaviour particularly in new or challenging social and emotional situations.
At a recent “swimathon” in Bengaluru, Shamita is strikingly calm. It’s an unfamiliar setting; the people milling around, schoolchildren roughly her age, are unknown to her and she’s the only specially-abled athlete in the fray. She adjusts her pink swimming cap and matching goggles with practiced ease before plunging headlong into the pool. And she’s completely at home.
“If she’s in water, we know there’s no need to worry,” says her father Adarsh, watching from the sidelines.