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DateLine Sunday, 7 October 2007

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Another first by S. Thomas'-blind student Ishan Jaleel first to row

ROWING: S. Thomas', at Mutwal, went on to produce Ceylon's first Prime Minister - the late Don Stephen Senanayake, and now S. Thomas' after over hundred years and more, has produced the first blind sportsman of recognisable standard in 19-year-old Ishan Jaleel whose disability in sight, does not seem to be a drawback, but makes him to take giant strides ahead in the sport that he fancies - rowing.

How Ishan manages to steer his boat without his eyesight is anyone's guess. But it is sheer Thomian grit that the school boasts of that makes this blind boy to give all he has in him to the sport that will eventually help S. Thomas' to do well.

Come, the annual Royal-Thomian Regatta on October 27 this year, according to Thomian coach and former ace rower Ajit Gunewardena, Jaleel is expected to row for S. Thomas' at the big occasion, but before that on October 20, he will be rowing for S. Thomas' as a member of the "Fours" team at the Royal-Thomian "Mini" Regatta on the Beira Waters.

He will be in "Stroke" position in the Fours team at the October 20 Regatta and all eyes will be on him as to how he will perform with the rest of the crew in the Fours Team.

Ishan Jaleel is blind from birth and it is somewhat unfortunate that he has come to be in such a state of health, as he has one sister who is working while both his parents too are in good health and sees to the day-to-day work without any problems.

Important exam

When Ishan was born in 1988, he was blind and his parents had almost a hobson's choice and when he was able to walk a bit, he was sent to the Blind School in Ratmalana in 1965. Then a good samaritan came to the family and the family was able to get Ishan admitted to S. Thomas' College, Mount Lavinia last year. He will sit for the important GCE Advanced Level Examination next year.

Right now, he is following a course in English Literature, Economics, Greek and Roman Civilisation and wants to be of some help to the country, without always living on outside help.

I was somewhat reluctant to put the question as to how he manages to do his rowing without his eyesight? But, the very game and persevering boy, that he is, he said that it was coach Ajit Gunawardena who saw something in him and wanted him to take to rowing.

New experience

For Ishan, it was a new experience and though there were many drawbacks, the boy cultivated his interest in the sport and is making his presence felt.

Despite not having his eyesight, Ishan attends to all his work at home and at school.

His father, mother and sister give him all the help he needs at home, and at school, the Thomians have been a very accommodative crowd, ever willing to lend a helping hand to their friend and colleague.

Ishan's family resides at Divulapitiya, Boralesgamuwa and Ishan travels to school daily with his father. He goes for rowing with his schoolmates and then the father picks him up after rowing and father and son go home.

In studies, he uses the brail system and for lectures, he uses a recorder.

To keep fit, Ishan runs on the beach and also indulges in strength training at the college gymnasium.

Besides getting involved in sports, Ishan fancies the music scene and he sang in the preliminary rounds of Sirasa Super Star competition.

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