Murlikant Petkar who? You would not be wrong in asking this question. Even members of the Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) are asking the same question. A lot of them are unaware of Petkar’s record in the Paralympic Games and his role in the history of Indian sports.
For all those scratching their head Petkar is the first Indian to win an individual gold medal in either Paralympics or Olympics. He achieved the feat in the 1972 Paralympics at Heidelberg, Germany – well before either Devendra Jhajharia (javelin gold in 2004 Paralympics) and Abhinav Bindra (10m air rifle gold in Beijing Olympics) had a shot at the pinnacle.
However, Petkar’s result does not figure anywhere in the records of Paralympics Committee of India and therefore not many are aware of his achievements or about the multi-talented sportsperson who took part in swimming, javelin throw and precision javelin throw disciplines in Heidelberg in 1972.
“We don’t have any record of his medal. We have record of Indian participation in Paralympics since 1984 when Joginder Singh Bedi won three medals for India in athletics,” said PV Raghunath, administrator, Paralympics Committee of India, over phone from Bangalore.
A unique sportsperson
Petkar was really a multi-faceted sportsperson. A boxer before he suffered permanent disabilities in the India-Pakistan war in 1965, the soldier from Electronics and Mechanical Engineering (EME) unit of Indian Army switched to swimming, athletics, table tennis and slalom after sustaining severe bullet injuries during combat.
He made his debut in the 1968 Paralympics in table tennis and reached the second round. But Petkar found his bearings in the swimming pool and created a sensation in the 50m freestyle 3 event at Heidelberg when he clocked 37.331 seconds to win gold medal with a world record to boot.