The children at Artek who took part in Equal Opportunity Day contests learned that it takes unique hearing and coordination feats to play tennis and volleyball in a wheelchair or to score goals by locating a football listening only to the sound of bells in it. They took this lesson of life from their peers who can only play these games this way and who see no obstacles to conquering any summit. That day created a very strong bond between all Artek children.
On Equal Opportunity Day, Viktoria Loginova, aged 18, a two-time world junior wheelchair tennis champion, saw her dream come true. She wanted to go to Artek, and she was given a chance to live at the Morskoi Camp for three days, where she shared the secrets of her sports achievements with the children there.
“I would like to wish all those who have taken up sports patience, courage and persistence,” said Viktoria. “I have been training since I was 10 years old. There have been bad losses when I was ready to give up. However, the support I received from my family and friends helped me to continue. Never stop working, and then your dreams will come true. I have always wanted to go to Artek, and here I am! I love today’s festival, and I am ready for surprises and unusual things in the next three days.”
She joined the coaches and participants of the Tennis at Artek program, which is underway with the assistance of the Russian Tennis Federation, to teach children to play wheelchair tennis. She gave a warm welcome to those who were not afraid of leaving their comfort zones, even if it was only for a few minutes. It turned out that it is very difficult to manoeuver a wheelchair while holding a tennis racquet.
“Actually, I play tennis, but I was a complete flop in a wheelchair,” said Alexander Biryuk from Sevastopol. “It’s very difficult to control a wheelchair while wielding a racquet. Today I have seen that you can only learn to do this by hard work and a lot of practice. I admire wheelchair athletes.”
Nikolai Deikin, an amputee from the Moscow Region, was another example of someone who is tough spirited and courageous. During a Life in Motion charity marathon last year, Nikolai proved that having a physical disability does not prevent you from conquering Mount Everest. He hiked to the Northern Base Camp, the highest part of the Everest at 5,200 meters above sea level which amateurs are allowed to reach. The path was not very steep, but every stone posed a danger for Nikolai.
“It was a difficult climb,” he said. “We walked on and on. Everyone was tired and I wanted to stop and turn back. But I never said this out loud. When this thought came to me, I knew that I needed to take a rest before I could continue. I needed to check myself for what I could do and whether I could lead others on. Also, I wanted to show everyone that even people with disabilities are able to do a great deal.”
Nikolai is now dreaming of climbing Mount Ayu-Dag, which may be simpler after Mount Everest, but it will still take special training. But this is how Nikolai lives, moving from one summit to another.
“I loved tennis sessions, trips and games. But I loved our team best,” Nikolai said. “It was the best I ever saw! We were all together at Artek, which is what really matters.”
Equal Opportunity Day helped children understand each other better. Valya Trukhina from Yekaterinburg and Vika Smirnova from Khabarovsk learned to play volleyball like people who cannot walk or run.
“Today we had an opportunity to take a new look at the life of people with disabilities,” the girls said. “We saw that they have unique abilities that help them live a full life, play, have fun and do sports. They are very strong and goal oriented people.”