Challenged divers gain confidence '



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Muscat: Many disabled adults and children in Oman recently discovered that diving offers them new possibilities.

At the recently organised five day scuba diving event held under the supervision of international diving, hyperbaric medicine and physiotherapy experts, nearly 30 (adults and children) persons with disabilities discovered that their everyday limitations is considerably reduced under water.

At the Oman Disabled Divers Association (ODDA)'s 10th diving event organised at in association with the International Association for Handicapped Divers at the Sohar Sports Complex, the participants found that diving strengthens them physically and mentally.

Individuals with handicaps such as cerebral palasy, blindness, paraplegia, and spinal cord injuries participated in the three day event.

Dr. Wilhelm Welslau, diving and hyperbaric medicine consultant, "it has been found that the difference between a handicapped diver and normal diver is very small. Under water they are doing things what normal people can do.  During the event we found the participants really letting go under water. They came out of the water feeling elated. It made them feel good that they could master something complex and that they can move around like anybody else."

Dr Roswitha Prohaska also a diving and hyperbaric medicine consultant explained that the participants were made to go through a clinical examination to assess their medical fitness.

"The handicapped were assisted by two diving instructors inside water. After the session when testing them medically we found that they had better respiratory function and reduced spasticity," explained Dr Roswitha.

Physiotherapist Edith Zauner Seidl from Austria who found the participants limbs rigid during the physio session before the event noticed that "their rigid uncontrolled muscles had completely relaxed after the session."

Dr. Wilhelm Welslau believes that frequent diving sessions is sure to help the handicapped physically and mentally.

Gerard Oijnhausen of International Association for Handicapped Divers (IAHD) was also part of the diving session.

The group was particularly impressed with how the participants took to diving so quickly and infarct never wanted to get out.

A mentally challenged boy who was extremely afraid of the water since he was witness to his sister being washed away was one inspiring example.

Dr Roswitha explains, "he was afraid to touch water. After the second day I took him to the pool side and let him put his feet in the water. Once he entered the water after minutes he was able to swim without any help in the middle water. He had not touched water before. He had only watched his friends having fun in the water. He was encouraged."
 
"Goals for the different handicaps are different,' says Dr Roswitha who has participated in the last eight diving events in Oman.

"Our aim is to educate local people to continue what we have been doing," she adds.

Tariq Al Khabori, founder of the ODDA hopes to make this a frequent event instead of the normal twice a year.

"We are discussing with the ministry of sports affairs and the ministry is keen to assist and join us," he says.

"We are thankful to our sponsors Al Habib Company LLC and Renaissance. We had a swimmer coach from Qatar Olympic Committee M Moosa Khan popularly known as jo jo, regular visitor coach diver Kathleen, Tom and Neena from Switzerland and new edition in the team Badr Al Shehi who lives in Qatar who supported the event," said Tariq Al Khabori.

The next diving vent is slated to be held in Sur in the month of March or April.

Plans are on to dedicate a diving event only for girls with disabilities in the next three to four months.

The ODDA has held events in Muscat, Sur, Nizwa, Salalah, Khasab and Sohar since 2009, always with the help of international volunteers who are certified to train people with disabilities to scuba dive.

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