Naval child with special needs ? Jiya Rai swims 14 km in open water with autism, sets world record

Ms Jiya Rai, is eleven year old child with special needs and daughter to Indian naval sailor, Madan Rai, Master Chief  at Arms II, INS Shikra, WNC created a world record on 15 Feb 20 by becoming the fastest special girl to swim 14 Km in open water.

Jiya, is a sixth standard student with Navy Children School (NCS), Mumbai. She attempted to swam from Elephanta Island to Gateway of India, a total distance of 14 Km in 03 hours 27 minutes and 30 seconds, by clock.

The solo swimming event was conducted under the supervision of Swimming Association of Maharashtra, an authorized body of Swimming Federation of India.

The stupendous achievement of Ms Jiya is understood to have qualified for registration in India Book of Records, Asia Book  & Limca Book of Records for youngest and first special girl in the world to swim a distance of 14 Km in 03 hours 27 minutes and 30 sec in the open water.

The young champion has come a long way since she was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Delay in Speech at a tender age of about two years. Based on her doctor’s advice that her repetitive knocking, a characteristic of her diagnosis, could be purposely applied in water sport as therapy she was initiated in swimming.

The water therapy worked wonders and Ms Jiya developed a passion for swimming. The parents were able to nurture this passion and help her prepare for various competitions by overcoming many odds.

Whilst, Jiya achieved a major mark with this world record through water therapy, and to further pursue her passion; there are many other Jiya(s) of this world who are yet to set the pace to fulfill their dreams or passion, be it through such therapies only.

 A similar initiative which leverages the Psycho-Physiological healing powers of water is – ‘Operation Blue Freedom’.

Operation Blue Freedom is a nationwide underwater SCUBA Diving Programme for people with disabilities. It is an initiative of former Special Forces soldiers of Indian Army and Navy, as initiated. The veterans are working to institutionalize Adventure Sports especially Scuba diving for people with disabilities (PWD’s) so that the joy and healing powers of water is shared for one and all in an organized and sustainable manner.  specially abled or otherwise alike. Through their venture, these EX – Special Forces soldiers aim to generate massive scale of employment for PWD’s , so far unexplored.

On 23 Feb 20, Ms Jiya was felicitated with a Certificate and Trophy for this record breaking achievement by Mr Abhay Dadhe , Associate Vice President of Swimming Federation of India at an award ceremony held at K R Kama hall,  Mumbai, India.

The writer is a Delhi-based independent contributor to print and online publications