Mumbai, Jan 29 (IANS): A specially-abled girl Jiya M. Rai - who completed the world record Mumbai-Goa-Palghar swim in December - has been conferred the prestigious Shriver-Kennedy Student Achievement Award-2023 for her multiple laurels in Open Water Swimming.
The award - presented by the Division on Autism and Developmental Disabilities (DADD), USA - was conferred on Jiya, 14, at a virtual ceremony from Florida on January 19, said her proud father, Indian Navy MC-At-Arms Madan Rai, who is also her swimming coach.
He said that the DADD is a special interest organisation with the Council for Exceptional Children - the largest international professional body in the world dedicated to supporting the needs of students with disabilities, like Jiya, who suffers from Autism.
At the age of two, she was diagnosed with the Autism Spectrum Disorder and Delay in Speech, and after medical advice, her parents encouraged her into swimming, based on her 'repetitive knocking' - a characteristic of her diagnosis - could be purposely applied in water sport as a therapy.
Though it was considered harsh to push Jiya into the water at such a tender age, they went ahead and imbibed in her the rigours and discipline of swimming, Rai said.
Started in 1963, the DADD is a leading voice in the field of education for students with Autism, Intellectual Disability and other developmental disabilities through research, dissemination, active participation in the creation of nationally recognized professional practice standards, and robust professional networking.
On December 29, 2022, Jiya and five others completed the world's longest open water relay swimming of 1,100 kms Mumbai-Goa-Palghar in the Arabian Sea - the youngest and only female swimmer in the six-member team of champions, she swam into the Guinness World Records.
Earlier, she was the youngest and fastest female swimmer in the world to swim the 29-kms wide Palk Strait in 13hrs-10 minutes (March 2022), was the recipient of Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar Award-2022, and several other record-breaking swimming achievements.