Our siblings may tease us, prank us, and embarrass us to no end. But when push comes to shove, they’ll always have our backs. Meet 3 Special Olympics athletes and their siblings who show us why the ones we grow up with are often our most rock-solid allies and cheerleaders. Together, they’re the strongest advocates of inclusion.
“Before the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games, my brother Rishabh was loved by us, his family. Now, he is loved by the nation.”
Shruti’s brother, Rishabh, was born with microcephaly, a condition that affected his cognitive and physical development. He struggled to pay attention and was hyperactive. He didn’t speak till the age of 3, but when he did, Shruti was elated to the words “didi” (elder sister in Hindi). She spent at least five hours every day teaching him the alphabet and how to count. When he was called names and bullied by the kids in the neighborhood, she was the one who constantly looked out and stood up for him. Rishabh later joined Special Olympics and showed a flair for skating. Soon after, Shruti received life-changing news – her brother had been selected to represent India in skating at the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi. When Rishabh won a gold medal and two bronze medals, accolades from friends and family poured in. The same people who had doubted his ability were now inspired by his transformation. Shruti is committed to continue supporting her brother. She says, “He now has the power to inspire others, and show the world that nothing is impossible.”
“We’re wrong to think that people with intellectual disabilities can’t achieve great things or teach us powerful life lessons. Anastasia has proven all of us wrong. We have so much to learn from one another.”
Growing up, Aloysia longed for a close relationship with her sister, Anastasia, who has Down syndrome. But she wasn’t sure her sister would ever truly understand her. Today, they have become best friends, watching movies together, doing each other’s hair, painting their nails, and traveling. There is nothing that they hide from each other. Anastasia looks up to her sister and copies everything that she does. Aloysia, too, has learned important life lessons from her sibling. She says, “The one big thing I’ve learned from Anastasia is confidence. She embraces life and celebrates her uniqueness. Seeing how carefree she is has taught me the importance of living life to the beat of my own drum.”
“After years of ignorance about Down Syndrome, I began to understand more about my sister’s condition. I also began to learn that my sister was extremely capable of achieving more than what I thought she could.”
Faris Vohra’s elder sister, Farah, has Down syndrome. The way he likes to introduce her is as a great swimmer, his biggest role model, and someone who emanates joy. Every day, she inspires him with her strength, her sheer excitement for life, and her ability to love. Growing up, he wasn’t always supportive of her. In fact, he felt embarrassed by all the attention she drew in public and used to shy away from her. The turning point came in his teens when he watched her being interviewed on national television for her achievements in swimming. It struck him then that if strangers could celebrate her accomplishments, how could he, as a sibling, feel ashamed of her? Today, they’re each other’s loudest cheerleaders and supporters. Faris has traveled the world with Farah as a Special Olympics advocate. Together, they help foster the inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities in Pakistan and across the region.
This Siblings Day, celebrate each other and show your siblings how much they are loved! Do you have a sibling with an intellectual disability, and wish to support him or her through sport? Hit this link to find out more!