He lost his arm in a road accident. That did not stop Prasanta Karmakar from swimming to bronze at the IPC World Championships in Germany earlier this year and breaking three Asian records in 50m backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly.
Even government apathy and the Paralympic Committee of India's (PCI) apparent neglect has not stopped Karmakar from becoming Asia's No. 3 in the S-9 category. He says it is the result of his determination and will. Training for close to 10 hours a day for the Commonwealth Games, the 29-year-old says he wants to awaken the slumbering authorities with his achievements. "We have a very hard six-days-a-week training regimen interspersed with yoga and meditation sessions. Certain aspects are customised according to the category of the event. I am concentrating more on improving my lap-time in the pool and on power training outside it," he said.
He credits the coaching staff, led by Nihar Ameen, for the way practice has been shaping up in the run-up to the October games. "There are 15 of us here in Bangalore and all are putting in their best effort. The support staff is there at every step, which is reassuring," said Karmakar, adding that he spends close to R 60,000 a month on training.
"Rs 40,000 is spent just on supplements and diet each month. Of course, it's my own expense. You cannot expect the government to pay me since they probably don't even know who Prasanta is," he says with a tinge of sarcasm aimed at the PCI.
Little wonder then, unlike other athletes and para-athletes, Karmakar is not looking at CWG as an opportunity to prove his patriotism. "I am just training to win a medal. The reason though is only to make the government aware of the plight of para-athletes in the country. Till I do so, I have no future, no job and no facility to bank upon."
Karmakar says the situation in India is unique, and despite all the hype and hoopla about home advantage, the Australians, English and Japanese are better trained. "Take a look at some of the foreign athletes. You will see the difference when they compete."
This though has not dampened Karmakar's sprits. A realistic expectation from the grand sporting extravaganza is a silver medal. "I will not say qualifying for the finals is an achievement even though some might disagree. I am close to a silver but my real work begins after I win the medal."