Priya Devi, hailing from Mianpur village in Rupnagar, achieved remarkable success at the 2023 Special Olympics held in Berlin, Germany, leaving her family and community in awe. Her parents, Parveen Kumar and Reena, had once feared a bleak future for her. Priya, the second-oldest of five siblings, struggled with basic tasks like writing her name and had few friends. Her parents, a painter and a daily wage laborer, were puzzled by her challenges.
A pivotal moment occurred when Priya joined the Ambuja Manovikas Kendra, an institution catering to children with intellectual disabilities. After an IQ test revealed her condition, Priya began her journey of transformation. Initially reserved, she gradually blossomed through co-curricular activities, particularly sports. Encouraged by her teachers, she competed in the Punjab State Olympics 2019, winning medals in the 100-meter walk and dash events.
Despite a setback in her bid for the 2022 Olympics in cycling, Priya seized a second chance by excelling in basketball trials for the Special Olympics team representing India. Her dedication and talent shone, leading her to Berlin.
The journey culminated in a triumphant victory over China in the semifinals, securing a medal for India. While Sweden claimed gold, Priya’s heart brimmed with happiness upon returning home to her proud parents.
Although she still cherishes school, cycling, and painting, basketball has given Priya newfound confidence and camaraderie with her siblings. Her father, who once prioritized her education over work, expressed gratitude for the sport’s transformative impact on his daughter. Through her inspiring journey, Priya Devi has become a local heroine, powered by her Special Olympics silver medal from Berlin.
Re-reported from the article originally published in The Hindustan Times