Life is a matter of choices, and every choice you make makes you. I, Keshav Malik, too have made choices that define who I am. I was brave in my attempt to chase my dreams, and it has brought me joy, respect, and a story I am proud to tell!
Growing up with intellectual disability
When I was 2, I was diagnosed with microcephaly, a condition which affected the growth of my brain. My head was smaller in size compared to other babies. The condition delayed my cognitive and physical progress and left me with permanent developmental disabilities.
Growing up, I struggled to clock the milestones most other kids did. I could barely speak and struggled to communicate my thoughts. It was tough getting me a place in a mainstream school. My parents enrolled me in a special school for children with intellectual disabilities. Although I was slower than others in learning certain tasks, I had a gift when it came to sports. My dad noticed my sporting abilities as he watched me play with my cousins every day. It sparked an idea.
The opportunity came when my dad learnt about Special Olympics in India at a local event one day. I was 9. I joined the badminton program, and I’ve not looked back since. That one decision defined my entire life and has made me who I am today.
“Keshav’s learning comes 100% from sports. I feel so proud of him, he’s truly special. From everything that contributed to his personality and standing in society, Special Olympics reigns the highest. A platform for the most marginalized population! The impact of sport can be observed in everything Keshav does.”
– Mr. Kultar Malik, Keshav’s father.
From following others’ footsteps to carving my own path, from repeating people’s sentences to finding my own voice, I have come a long way.
A passion that took him places
In 2011, I represented India in badminton at the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens and returned with gold and silver medals. It was an amazing experience and honor to be on the world stage. My achievements were recognized nationally. I became the first athlete with special needs to receive the Bhim Award, the highest sports honor given by the government of Haryana, India for “outstanding performance in national and international competitions.” It paved the way for bigger things. In 2018, I was among the first persons with disabilities to be employed by the Haryana State Government as a sports coach, a position reserved for persons with exceptional sporting talent and performance.
Sports has completely changed my life. It instilled in me discipline and focus, which I now apply to my daily living. It taught me to manage my time effectively and gave me the confidence to find my voice and vision. Today, I try my best to enable my students to turn their passion into reality. Beyond just being their sports coach, I strive to be their mentor and pillar of support. I pass on my learnings and experiences and talk to them about everything, from discipline and safety to respect for elders. I want them to know that there is no challenge too difficult to overcome. Shut out the naysayers and be fearless in pursuing your dreams!
Your support empowers thousands of athletes with intellectual disabilities like Keshav to make their dreams a reality, and bring pride and hope to their communities. Take action here and join us in creating a truly inclusive world for all!