- Twitter/Nadia Comaneci
- Two Indian schoolchildren have been offered the opportunity to become full-time gymnasts after a video of them cartwheeling on their way to school went viral on Twitter.
- The clip was shared by five-time Olympic gold-medallist Nadia Comaneci and caught the eye of the country’s sports minister, Kiren Rijiju.
- After Jashika Khan, 11, and Mohammad Azajuddin, 12, were identified, they were invited in for trials by the regional director of SAI (Sports Authority of India) Eastern Centre, The Telegraph India reports.
- The children, neither of whom have any formal gymnastics training, will be offered food and accommodation, as well as education with top equipment and trainers.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
When famed gymnast Nadia Comaneci tweeted a video of two Indian children performing cartwheels and backflips in the street on the way to school, she likely thought she was simply sharing something cool.
“This is awesome,” the five-time Olympic gold-medallist wrote.
This is awesome pic.twitter.com/G3MxCo0TzG
— Nadia Comaneci (@nadiacomaneci10) August 29, 2019
But those three words may have just changed the lives of those two children: Jashika Khan, 11, and Mohammad Azajuddin, 12, have now been selected to train as full-time gymnasts, The Telegraph India reports.
“The video was on twitter and I was tagged, and I thought was so cool to share,” Comaneci told Insider. “It looked so spontaneous for kids to do flips on the way to school carrying school backpacks.
“I had no idea it would go so viral.”
Comaneci wasn’t the first to share the clip online, but she was the first to bring it to widespread notice when she shared it on August 29.
The Kolkata duo became social media sensations, and an internet-wide quest to identify them commenced, India Today reports.
— Shiv Aroor (@ShivAroor) September 3, 2019
The video caught the eye of the country’s sports minister, Kiren Rijiju, who said that he was keen to meet with the children.
I'm happy that @nadiacomaneci10 tweeted it! As first gymnast who scored perfect 10.0 at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, and then, received six more perfect 10s to win three gold medals, it becomes very special. I've urged to introduce these kids to me. https://t.co/ahYVws8VCB
— Kiren Rijiju (@KirenRijiju) August 30, 2019
Fortunately, the children were swiftly identified and asked to go for trials by Manmeet Singh Goindi, the regional director of SAI (Sports Authority of India) Eastern Centre, on Wednesday, The Telegraph India reports.
“Yes, I have met the kids. The coaches here too have seen them,” Goindi told The Telegraph.
“They are certainly talented and have the desire to achieve much. I have spoken to their parents and both sets of parents are keen to enroll the children here.”
“At SAI, not only will the children get food, lodging, and proper education, they will also be trained under qualified gymnastics coaches. Plus, the right equipments will be made available to them.
“They will practise in proper indoor halls. No more will they have to jump around on the road and somersault on concrete, risking injuries.”
Both children are currently pupils at Sanghamitra Vidyalaya school in Kolkata, according to the Telegraph, and although they’ve attended dance lessons, neither has had any gymnastics training.
Their dance teacher, Shekhar Rao, offers free hip-hop dance classes for underprivileged children, and he filmed the video.
“In the locality where these children live, not much importance is given to dance,” Rao told the Telegraph.
“They think that it is only through academics that they can earn a living. But I train these boys and girls because they are talented.”
The talented duo were simply trying to impress their teacher.
“We improvised some of it on the spot,” Khan, who lives in a one-room house in Garden Reach slum with her parents and two siblings, told the Telegraph.
“Sir gets scared when we do some moves on the road. In fact, that day also we were doing it only in play but he made a video and it went viral.
“We had not thought that a world-famous gymnast would post our video.”
At 11 and 12, they’re the perfect age to start formal gymnastics training, Goindi told the Telegraph.
And both children seem thrilled by what’s happened.
“I felt great joy when I came to know about it, I told my parents too and they were very happy,” Khan told Asian News International.
“I have been doing it for four years, I want to become a gymnast like Nadia Comaneci in the future.”
Mohammad Azajuddin: I want to do something to make my dance teacher proud. If I get a chance to do gymnastics in future, I will take it but I will never stop dancing. (3/3) pic.twitter.com/HlEkvpNmqb
— ANI (@ANI) September 5, 2019
“I want to do something to make my dance teacher proud,” Azajuddin told the news site. “If I get a chance to do gymnastics in future, I will take it but I will never stop dancing.”
Comaneci told Insider she’s “happy” the tweet went viral “so these kids get an amazing opportunity to play sports, gymnastics, and to be helped by the authorities and sport minister to chase their dreams and have a better life.”
“The power of a tweet and the good that comes out of social media.”