Abu Dhabi, March 17: Sport has the power to change lives and it quite literally came true for two hearing-impaired Indian basketball players, who experienced the "joy of sound" thanks to the ongoing Special Olympics (SO) here.
Rincy Biju and Jyothi A are participating for the first time in the world's largest sports event for athletes with intellectual and physical disabilities -- an event which took shape 50 years ago. The two teenagers were in for a life-changing experience when they joined the SO Healthy Athletes program.
The health screening covers seven aspects -- podiatry (treatment of feet ailments), physical therapy, better health and well-being, audiology, sports physical exam, vision and dentistry. And the two girls walked out of the 'Healthy Hearing' hall at the Abu Dhabi Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) with their lives changed forever.
"Both the girls haven't stopped smiling since the time they have got the aids. They are very happy," Sneha Shetye, the women's basketball coach, told PTI.
Born in the fishing community of Kerala, the 18-year-old Rincy and her twin sister had a congenital defect in their ears. Both of Rincy's ears are disfigured and her family had given up hope of ever finding a treatment.
The 17-year-old Jyothi, also from Kerala, was abandoned at birth and was brought up by Nirmal Sadan School for children with special needs. After a screening here, Rincy was fitted with a hearing aid that resembles a hairband, while Jyothi received a more conventional one placed on the ear.
Overcome with emotion, the two girls couldn't hold back tears once they realised their lives had changed forever.
"Rincy was so so happy to receive the aid. She just wants to call her mother and tell her," Shetye said. "Jyothi never got a hearing screening done. So, none of us knew she had a problem," she added.
Although India lost their match to SO USA, the team was in celebratory mood. The side went out to cheer the men's against Ireland and Rincy's voice seemed energised by her new-found ability to hear.
"After putting on the hearing aid, she is talking so loudly. Earlier we couldn't hear what she used to say. She has got a new sense of confidence today," Shetye said.