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The sky's the limit for disabled athletes in Serbia
29/12/2009 By Nikola Barbutov for Southeast European Times in Belgrade
An organisation in Serbia is bringing out the best in the country's disabled athletes.
The Disabled Athletic Association of Serbia, which had about 15,000 members, is on a mission to keep handicapped athletes in the country active. "Sporting results are not the primary goal, the goal is rather to include as many disabled people as possible in all events, instead of having them just sit at home...
Our aim is to increase the number of our members, who now account for around 2% of disabled people," Dusan Moracanin, head of the Disabled Athletic Association of Serbia told SETimes. He added that in order to achieve that goal, the association needs more funding. "We are financed by the Sports and Youth Ministry and the Labour and Social Policy Ministry, but those funds are sufficient only for some basic costs and activities. We are unable to develop and offer something new.
Working with disabled people requires a whole team that includes a psychologist… we are unable to hire that kind of personnel," said Moracanin. The disabled in Serbia compete at the state and international levels in chess, shooting, fishing, swimming, table tennis and wheelchair basketball, and also participate in recreational activities such as mountain climbing, sailing and weightlifting. According to Moracanin, sporting activities are a great way for disabled people to boost their self-esteem -- especially mountain climbing.
"When you reach the top, it feels fantastic to look around and realise what you've gone through. You've made it," he said. The association started hosting mountain climbing events about three years ago in association with two mountaineering clubs -- Pobeda and Avala.
Milanka Arsic, who recently opened her own mountaineering club called Balkan, described a climb up Bobotov Kuk, a peak in northern Montenegro, where disabled climbers reached the summit. "It was extremely difficult. It was unreal, phenomenal, impossible -- but we did it," she told SETimes.
Pobeda guide Zoran Kovljenic was overjoyed that the disabled mountaineers accomplished what some "healthy" folks could not. The mountaineering groups plan to branch out and climb peaks in neighbouring countries, such as Mount Olympus in Greece and Mount Rila in Bulgaria.
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