New Delhi, Nov 15 (PTI) His life was turned upside down by progressive loss of vision but Sagar Baheti refused to let that become a hurdle in the pursuit of his sporting dreams, which range from running marathons to learning cricket.
Baheti, now 32, was diagnosed with Stargardt disease, a rare genetic disorder that causes progressive deterioration of the central portion of the retina, in 2012.
But instead of resigning to his fate, he took to marathon running and became the first visually impaired Indian to run in the prestigious Boston Marathon in April.
He is set to compete in the Delhi Half Marathon on November 19 in the Champions with Disability section.
An industrial engineering graduate, Baheti is not entirely blind but his vision will continue to deteriorate and he would not be able to see past a few centimeters in future.
As of now, he can see up to a distance of one meter.
“My doctor told me my eyesight will deteriorate progressively. That was in 2012 and by 2014 there was a lot of degeneration and that forced me to change my lifestyle in many ways. It became more difficult to read, drive and do a lot of normal activities. Life changed for me but I will not curse my fate,” Baheti told PTI in an interview.
“It was a struggle (from 2012 to 2014) but at some point, life has to go on and I am a kind of positive person who takes life as it comes. When something out of your control happens, you have to make the best out of it rather than complain. You can’t have everything but you have to make the best out of what you have,” said Bahrti who has also run the Ladakh Marathon, Coorg Escapade and Bangalore Ultra-Marathon.
Baheti played cricket for a club in Bangalore and grew up as a Sachin Tendulkar fan. But in 2012, before the start of the new cricket season, he noticed that he had trouble sighting the ball while trying to catch it.
“I thought I was a bit rusty and due to lack of practice.
But it persisted. I went to a specialist, had my test done and then got to know about my situation when my family doctor told me. Those two years were hard but now all right now,” he said.
The course distance for Champions with Disability section is 2.2 km and Baheti is running on behalf of NGO Planet Abled which will raise funds for charity.
In Boston Marathon, the oldest in the world, he finished 18th in his category, covering the 42.195 km distance in 4 hours, 14 minutes and 7 seconds. He crossed the line holding the tricolour up in the air. He ran for Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (MABVI) and raised USD 10,000 for charity.
An adventurous spirit that he is, Baheti did skydiving but met with an accident recently near Seville in Spain and broke his cervical spine. He had to undergo an emergency surgery in Seville and was lucky to survive without any long lasting health problems.
“I had to be taken by an air ambulance and an emergency surgery was done. The doctors had to put together with plates and screws. There was a second surgery in Bangalore. After that I was in bed rest for four months and three months of rehab,” he said.
“I am yet to regain full fitness but hopefully this run will lift the mental barrier of having met with an accident.
If I do well here I am planning to run a full marathon in California next month.”
Baheti ruled out competing in Paralympics, saying that he would want to balance his business with running and working for the betterment of visually impaired people.
“I have to balance sports and business. At the end of the day you have to earn your living also.”
His love for cricket remains in tact and Baheti still goes to stadiums with friends to have a feel of the atmosphere during matches.
“I grew up as a Tendulkar fan and an admirer of Dravid, Kumble and Srinath. I still follow Virat and Dhoni. I went to the Ashes at Lords in 2015 and to Eden Gardens for the India- Pak T20 semifinals. I am learning how to play blind cricket also.”
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.