February 21, 2017 2:07:17 am
A 16-year-old autistic golfer, studying at Scottish High International School in Gurgaon, was conferred with the Bheem award on Sunday — an honour bestowed by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports on those having outstanding achievements in various sports.
Ranveer Singh Saini, the second of three children, was introduced to golf when he was nine.
Seven years on, his mother describes it as his “biggest obsession”. Ranveer has earned laurels for the country, including a gold medal at the World Special Olympics in Los Angeles in 2015.
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Stating that the sport has helped reduce some of the symptoms of autism, his mother, Bakhtawar Saini, said, “Golf requires focus and patience, which were skills that he, as an autistic child, lacked. The sport changed this and also gave him greater confidence. As a result, he is a lot more comfortable around people now.”
Ranveer was a month away from turning two when he was diagnosed with autism, and termed a “high functioning autistic child”.
As a result of the neurological disorder, which impairs social interaction, he had no friends until he turned nine, his parents said.
This was when they decided to introduce him to golf, a sport that his father, Kartikay Saini, chairman of Scottish High International School, indulged in as a hobby. They enrolled him at the DLF Golf and Country Club for lessons with Anitya Chand, a National Golf Academy of India (NGAI) Certified Teaching Professional.
“I had never taught a child with special needs before this, and the two of us found it difficult to even communicate initially,” said Chand. He added that Ranveer spent a lot of the early lessons “just looking at birds and peacocks, with little idea of the lesson”.
One year into the classes, his parents intervened. One of them turned up for each lesson and served as “interpreters”. Eventually, Ranveer developed a connection with Chand.
The first competition Ranveer participated in was the Special Olympics Golf Masters in Macau, where he won two gold medals.
He followed this up with another gold in the next games.
“When I realised he was good at the game, I looked for local competitions for special needs’ children, but found nothing. So, I began training him for the Special Olympics,” Chand said.
Today, Ranveer, who also enjoys cooking and music, spends four to five hours a day practicing. The remaining time, his parents said, is usually spent on his iPad, watching the games of Irish golfer Rory McIlroy, who is his inspiration.
“He somehow manages to handle the modified curriculum taught to him at school, but we encourage him to focus more on golf because, with autism, subjects like physics and chemistry, are harder for him. Golf is both his strength and passion,” his mother said.
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