‘I won’t be able to do it; let me make an attempt some other time’.
‘This is beyond my capacity’.
‘Not meant for me, I have my own limitations.
‘Never in my dreams I will try it’.
These are few of many excuses we bring forward and present to ourselves. Negative sentences hold us back from trying anything new. We declare self-defeat even before making an attempt. Such declaration of negative emotions reduces our chances of growing our confidence. And lack of confidence leads to mental stagnation. A puddle of stagnant water attracts mosquitoes while a free flowing river is always fresh. A wise man once said “It is never a river’s fault if one cannot swim”. It is us who set up hypothetical barriers knocking out ourselves from the mind game. What happens within us is nothing but intellectual distraction. We convince ourselves to let go the opportunity. The river teaches us to keep flowing towards our destination in the most natural way. But often we tamper with our thoughts, our abilities and re-classify them as our inability. And gaining success in imposing limitations results in a typical behaviour. ‘Its fine if am unable to beat my previous record’ becomes an accepted norm. Human brain has tremendous potential, so it is wrong to imprison the mind. It can never progress in confinement. In fact, of all the species on the planet, it is the only brain which has studied its own self. Such is the power of human mind. And when the mind is unleashed it opens up plethora of ideas and possibilities. Doubt’s become conviction, hesitation becomes willingness, inertia becomes action and dreams become reality. It is upon us how we capitalize a situation. Some thoughts can try to stop us, but we must always find a way to keep flowing.
Introducing to you a gentleman who defied all odds, defeated his physical condition and emerged as a champion with his strong will power.
Meet Stefan Voormans a para cyclist with a compelling life story.
Born on 7th November 1970 in Nettetal, Germany, Stefan met with an accident on 10th December 1987, with a scooter. He became paralyzed because of the accident. Till date, Stefan has spent over three years in hospitals undergoing 64 surgical operations.
Since 2002, he started hand cycling and took part in many races around the world – most of them in marathon distances of 42 kms. He won the German Championship in Para triathlon in 2010, stood 7th at the New York Marathon in 2006 and came 4th twice at Beirut Marathon in 2009 and 2010. Since 2005, he has also been the Executive Director of Somedi Nettetal e.V., a German NGO.
Stefan visits India every winter and has been doing so since last 15 years. Three months ago, he and his Indian friend Rajiv Mehta stumbled upon an idea to hold a cycling event to raise public awareness about orthopaedic disabilities. Thus Cyclothon 2020 was planned.
On 19th February 2020, Stefan Voormans accomplished a new milestone of his career by hand cycling a distance of 650 kms from Kolhapur to Mumbai, Maharashtra. A journey spanning over 8 days, Stefan on his hand cycle lead the cyclothon organised by Ratna Nidhi Charitable Trust and supported by IMC Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The cyclothon was flagged-off on 12th February from Kolhapur at 07:00 am and culminated in Mumbai on 19th February at 09:00 am.
“Was jetzt bewiesen ist, wurde einst nur vorgestellt”
“What is now proved was once only imagined”
– William Blake
Celebrations en route:
During the course of the journey, Stefan and his caravan was received with great honour and respect. At every flag-off and stage finish, Stefan was showered with love, admiration and cheered by the dignitaries from district Rotary clubs, local authorities, institutions, cycling clubs, and general public. As you may see in the pictures, Stefan was gifted traditional Marathi turbans on quite a few ceremonial occasions.
The turbans worn in Maharashtra are called as ‘Pheta’ and worn in happy occasions such as religious ceremonies, festivals, weddings and cultural events. In many regions of the state, it is a custom to give a traditional welcome by offering a turban. Appreciating his fearless act of courage, Stefan earned several of these beautiful turbans which stands as a symbol of pride and prestige for the Marathi community. Stefan is indeed Germany’s pride and India’s most valuable guest.
To honour Stefan’s valiant effort, IMC held a felicitation ceremony at Walchand Hirachand hall IMC on 19th February. The Chief Guest of the event was Shri. Sumit Mullick, State Chief Information Commissioner, Government of Maharashtra. The evening was graced by Ashish Vaid, President of IMC along with other high profile delegates from Rotary World, German Consulate and other professionals.
Stefan Voormans was conferred with an honorary membership by The Rotary World.
Expressing his sentiments, Stefan said “Cycling through India with my hand cycle was always a dream of mine. And finally now, we could do it with Cyclothon coming from Kolhapur via Karad, Satara, Pune, Nayarangoan, Samnanger, Nashik and Thane towards Mumbai. I knew about the traffic and the road conditions, because I’m coming to India since 15 years. What I did not expect was, how enthusiastic the people around the trip and the places, we passed have been. I just can say, I loved riding the bike in Maharashtra! So with the experiences from this year, we will do this Cyclothon next year again and I’m looking forward to it”.
Stefan was joined mid-way by another cyclist Iris Becker from Germany. Talking about her experience Iris quoted “Due to my road accident in December I couldn’t join this amazing Cyclothon for complete the distance. It was a memorable experience to cycle in India with 2 hand bikers for 110 kms from Pune to Narangaon!
Tricky road conditions, 900 meters of elevation, and summer heat could only be tackled with outstanding supportive team who secured us in the journey.
Yet again it is proved what disabled members of society can achieve everything with mental will and support of friends. All they yearn for is social inclusion. I’d like to spread the awareness and extend my association with this very unique cause led by Ratna Nidhi Trust in the future chapters of IMC Cyclothon”.
Concluding the evening, Rajiv Mehta, Founder of non-profit NGO ‘Ratna Nidhi Charitable Trust’ said “Cyclothon 2020 by Stefan Voormans was organized to sensitize communities in India towards the needs of disabled people, make our infrastructure accessible to them and our society more inclusive.
Stefan also serves as a role model for disabled, that you can rise up the ladder and live life fully.
To both this causes, Cyclothon 2020 has been a huge success seeing the reception that our cycling team received in entire route and so many institutions now are connected with our disability cause through this medium”.
I cycled in the last stage, Thane to Mumbai and find myself fortunate to come across such incredible personalities. Seeing Stefan, Dr. Raju Turkane and Iris cycling in front was a heart-warming moment. Stefan is a powerful character, mentally strong and so is Dr. Raju. The two have set the ground for rest of the disabled community to challenge their mental and physical limitations and set-out to achieve what they dream to.
This cyclothon is a new beginning for a massive change in the society in years to come. “It is from small streams that big rivers rise”, so in all probability, the gushing “Will Power” of these athletes will help establish social equality for the differently abled.
Follow Stefan Voormans on facebook: Stefan Voormans
Enjoy the photo gallery:
Photographs by: IMC Cyclothon and various participants.
Author: Vijay Malhotra, Mumbai