Meet the five athletes you may not have heard about but who left their mark in Indian history. Their life stories could give you the motivation to follow your dreams.
Getting back up after being knocked down is what makes a true winner. Over the years, there have been numerous Indian sportspeople who have overcome numerous drawbacks to become a champion in their respective field. Let's take a look at a few such motivational stories which will inspire you beyond belief.
29-year old Anand Arnold is India’s first wheelchair bodybuilder. He began bodybuilding when he was 13 and he won his first title that year, Mr. Golden Ludhiana. However, tragedy struck Arnold when he was just 15. Arnold was diagnosed with cancer in the lower spinal cord region and due to surgery, he was paralysed.
However, Arnold chose not to give up on his dreams of becoming a bodybuilder. Despite being bedridden for three years, he resumed vigorous training and got the better of his disability. Arnold’s coach Ravi Parashar was also very helpful and generous towards him as he allowed him to train at his health club for free.
Since then, there has been no looking back for Arnold. Arnold won Mr.India three times, Mr. Punjab 12 times and has 27 other titles to his kitty. He is the brand ambassador for Pune gym Muscle Mania. Anand Arnold defied all odds to fulfil his dream and he has proven himself to be the epitome of comeback and resilience.
Murlikant Petkar was a sports enthusiast from his childhood days and he began wrestling at the age of 12. Petkar joined the Indian Army as a jawan and used to do a lot of boxing, winning plenty of medals including a national title in 1965. However, tragedy struck Petkar in that very year.
While he was fighting in that year’s Indo-Pakistan he got severely injured during battle. Petkar was shot with 7 bullets from a Pakistan fighter plane and his lower body was paralysed. However, he did not stop playing sports. He made swimming his major.
At the 1972 Paralympics in Heidelberg, Petkar became India’s first Paralympics medalist and gold medalist by winning the 50 m freestyle event, creating a then-world record timing of 37.33 seconds. He took part in another three sports during that year’s Paralympics- Javelin throw, precision javelin throw and slalom which is a skiing discipline.
Jalandhar-born Rajinder Singh Rahelu contracted polio when he was only 8 months old. This eventually resulted in him being paralyzed. After completing his higher education, Rahelu did not pursue any further education and pursued powerlifting.
On his first bench press attempt, he lifted 70 kg and within half a year, he was able to lift 115 kg. He won his maiden title at the Punjab Open meet. 5 years later in 2002, Rahelu won the gold in the Asian Bench Press Championships at New Delhi.
He then participated at the 2004 Athens Olympics in the 56 kg event. He initially finished fourth in the standings but since bronze medalist Youseff Cheikh was disqualified due to doping, Rahelu was lifted to third position and secured the bronze medal. This was India’s first medal in powerlifting at the Paralympics.
In 2006, he was bestowed with the Arjuna Award and in 2014, he won the silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Rahelu still suffers from infantile paralysis but he has not allowed that to stand in the way of him winning laurels for India.
Rajkot’s Girish Sharma lost his right leg in a train accident when he was only 2 years old. For any toddler, this is a highly traumatizing incident. However, Sharma did not led his disability prevent him from pursuing sports.
From a very tender age, Sharma began to play a variety of sports like cricket and badminton. Sharma eventually decided to make badminton his major sport. He trains for 6 hours daily and his hard work paid off when he won the gold medal at the Paralympic Asia Cup in Delhi. He has also represented India in various international tournaments at Israel and Thailand.
However, despite winning laurels for India, Sharma’s performances have not been really recognized by India.
Bangalore-born H Boniface Prabhu had a very tragic incident when he was only four years old. Prabhu lost the chance to live life like a fit human being but didn't lose hope. He took up a number of wheelchair sports including shot put, javelin, discus throw, shooting, badminton and table tennis.
Prabhu represented India at the 1996 World Wheelchair games at UK and won the gold medal in shot put throw and the silver in discuss throw. During this event, he took a shot at Wheelchair Tennis and developed an instant liking to it.
Prabhu had been fond of tennis from a very young age and was a fan of Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe. After the 1996 Wheelchair Games, Prabhu approached the Karnataka State Lawn Tennis Association and began training under a coach. Within two years, he began participating in competitions.
In 1998, Prabhu reached the semi-finals of the US Open in both Singles and Doubles categories. The following year, he was the runner-up at the Australian Open before winning the Sydney International Wheelchair tennis tournament.
Prabhu won the Sydney International again in 2007. He has a number of titles to his name including the Japan Open which he won in 2001 (Singles) and the Florida Open which he won in 2004 (Singles and Doubles).
Prabhu's best Singles ranking was 17th which he attained in 2007 and his best Doubles ranking was 19th which he attained in 2013. In 2014, Prabhu was conferred with the Padma Shri for his contributions to sports. H Bonafice Prabhu is truly an inspiration for all of us, particularly for the para-athletes.
These stories of sports fill new energy to realize the dreams no matter what the odds are. This was prepared by a team of writers from KreedOn, which has dedicated itself to bring out such inspirational Indian athlete stories to light and spread awareness about them.