28 August, 2019

Sporting support for a champ

The Tata Trusts Spectrum Grants is helping sportspersons like Naazim Khan follow their passion and ace championships

“The Tata Trusts grant allowed me to single-mindedly focus on my game and win the gold in the championship. I am grateful for their support,” replies Naazim Javed Khan, when asked ‘how did the Tata Trusts’ support help you in your sporting career?’ Naazim is a gold medalist in the Japan Para Open Table Tennis Team Championship 2019 held in Tokyo, Japan, from August 1-3, 2019.

Naazim was born with the odds heavily stacked against him — with both his legs deformed. His middle-class parents, Javed Ismail Khan and Fouziya Javed Khan, did not give up on him. They did all within their meagre means to see that their firstborn has a fair chance in life. Naazim’s mother carried him around because of his inability to walk, along with caring for his elder sister and younger brother and sister. His parents and grandparents visited all the well-known doctors in the towns adjacent to their village in Kumta in the Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka to remedy his physical disability.

Naazim’s right leg was operated when he was 7 years old and left leg was amputated at the knee when he was 10 years old, and he started wearing a Jaipur foot. However, the disability did not deter the spunky child; Naazim put his heart and soul into remaining fit and enthusiastically participated in all the sporting activities provided by his school, Nirmala Convent in Kumta. He is a good swimmer and played cricket, football, badminton and throw-ball in which he was captain in school. He excelled in athletics too - a state and national level track and field athlete, participating in shot put, javelin and racing events, and won a bronze medal in shot put.

After he completed his board exams, Naazim was contacted by para table tennis coaches in Bengaluru, who convinced him of the opportunity in the field. After being coached locally, he won a gold medal at the junior level in the National Para Table Tennis Championship 2012 in Bangalore. The winning spree continued with a bronze medal in the National Para Table Tennis Championship 2016 at Bangalore, bronze in the Para Table Tennis National Championship 2018-19 at Indore and a bronze in the National Para Table Tennis Championship 2019 at Indore. In 2014, he started coaching with the Maharashtra Mandal Table Tennis Academy.

He got opportunities to showcase his talent at the international level as well. He participated in the Para Table Tennis Thailand Open 2013 in Bangkok, the ITTF Para Asian Table Tennis Championship 2017 in Beijing, and the Para Table Tennis Spanish Open 2018 in Barcelona. “Defeating Hans Speek ranked 56th in the ITTF Para Table Tennis Ranking List was a dream come true,” says Naazim.

For all his passion for sports, Naazim did not neglect his studies. Scoring high marks in the Common Entrance Test for engineering and medicine, he enrolled at the Karnataka Institute of Medical Sciences (KIMS), Hubballii, for an MBBS degree, which he completed this year.

All his wins were accompanied with the constant stress of finding sponsors and funding. His teachers and other staff at Dr AV Baliga College of Sciences, Kumta, where he did his undergraduate studies, and KIMS pooled in to fund his table tennis career. A local transportation company, VRL Logistics, also helped out. Fed up with the need to constantly knock on doors for funding, Naazim did an online search for sports grants, which yielded the search result for Tata Trusts Spectrum Grants. He applied for the grant and received it. It funded all his expenses for the Japan Para Open 2019 Table Tennis Championship. “When you work hard and win you are very happy. I was not on earth, but floating in heaven,” says Naazim of his feelings on winning the gold in the championship.

The future looks bright for Naazim, who has multiple dreams to achieve. While completing his MD studies is the foremost on his radar, continuing to participate in prestigious national and international table tennis championships is second on his list — the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou and the 2024 Summer Paralympics in Paris are some competitions he is particularly looking forward to. Naazim also hopes to be able to afford an expensive hydraulic sports prosthesis in the near future.