The power of resilience

Siya Sarode, a powerlifter from Sanguem, won four medals, including two golds, at the 2023 Special Olympics World Games held in Berlin. The hardships in life keep coming, but she doesn’t give up easily


No matter who you are and where you come from, anything is possible if you have the will and desire to do it. Powerlifter Siya Sarode is one such example. Sarode recently won a record four medals – two gold medals (deadlift and squat), bronze in bench press and silver in combine lift – at the 2023 Special Olympics World Games in Berlin.

The Sanguem-based athlete’s journey to the huge win is a testament to her unwavering determination and the immense support she received from her family, coaches, community and the government.

From a young age, Sarode, a slow learner, faced a number of challenges due to her disabilities, but she never allowed them to define her. At first, she was enrolled at a regular school. But it was soon noticed that she needed special attention. Currently, a student of Sanjay Centre for Special Education, Curchorem, she lives with her uncle and his family. Despite the lack of proper transportation and the loss of her parents at a young age, Sarode’s family, particularly her cousin Yogita Naik, stood by her side, ensuring that despite being from a remote area, she had the means to attend practices and pursue her dreams. Sarode says, “Yogita has always been incredibly supportive. I am truly grateful to her. She used to accompany me for practices in Panaji every day, even though we had to wake up early and there were no proper buses available from Sanguem to Panaji. She made sure that I always reached on time.”

Her coaches, she says, played a crucial role in her development as a powerlifter. Recognising her potential, they provided her with the necessary training, guidance, and inspiration. “I attribute my success to my coach Gautami Dessai and everyone who believed in me.”

Even though there were setbacks such as the denial of German Schengen visa application for the first time as she needed to present a certificate from a legal guardian, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, minister for social welfare Subhash Phal Desai, and state commissioner for persons with disabilities, Guruprasad Pawaskar, ensured she had the opportunity to compete in Berlin and got her the required visa just 24 hours before the World Games.

Sarode’s performance and medal haul have truly been an inspiration, says Pawaskar. “Siya has made us believe that nothing is impossible. Despite various challenges, she stood out among the team that represented India, and she’s won hearts here in Goa, across the country, and in Berlin too. We have to keep our para-athletes motivated and give them the accord that all other athletes get,” he adds.

Special Olympics Bharat Goa Branch supported the athletes, keeping them motivated and assisting the team through their training and the competition. National sports director of Special Olympics Bharat, Victor Vaz says, “The athletes from Goa trained hard. To have someone like Siya in the team who brought us these medals boosted the morale of others. Special athletes and her friends have put her on a pedestal and rightly so. She deserves all the love and support she’s been receiving.”

Reflecting on her experience, Sarode says, “I had immense pride in representing India at an international level. It was a great experience and I’m thankful for the opportunity I got to compete alongside other athletes from around the world.”

The 17-year-old is now driven to inspire others through her journey, and so her advice to every individual facing any challenge is “to never give up”. “I encourage them to move forward and pursue their goals without hesitation.”