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There are no barriers for disabled people, says Boniface Prabhu, a quadriplegic wheelchair tennis champion

The Padma Shree awardee was in the city last week to conduct a tennis clinic at the Shiv Chhatrapati sports complex in Balewadi.

pune Updated: Dec 04, 2018 16:30 IST
Jigar Hindocha
Jigar Hindocha
Hindustan Times, Pune
pune,tennis,Padma Shree awardee
Harry Boniface Prabhu is an athlete who has competed at the world level as far as athletics, shot put, badminton, javelin throw, table tennis, shooting and discuss throw, go.(Milind Saurkar/HT Photo)

Disabled, differently abled, specially abled – these are the words that Harry Boniface Prabhu, a quadriplegic wheelchair tennis champion for India, smiles at.

“True disability is in person’s mind. Once it is overcome, then there are no barriers for disabled people to find success,” is how Harry Boniface Prabhu explains it to Hindustan Times, adding, “I say to people, ‘God has blessed you with normal legs and I have legs which are round in shape with a metal plate’.”

Prabhu is an athlete who has competed at the world level as far as athletics, shot put, badminton, javelin throw, table tennis, shooting and discuss throw, go.

Having played multiple sports, Prabhu then developed a keen interest in tennis and has never looked back.

“Tennis happens throughout the year. And it always fascinated me and as a person,” he added.

His real heroics, however, go beyond sport. Prabhu also runs a mission where he teaches basic sign language to people who need to communicate with the deaf and/or dumb.

“The aim is to awaken people. Today, I see people with disability are singers, dancers and artists. The present generation is very welcoming. ,” said Prabhu.

The Padma Shree awardee was in the city last week to conduct a tennis clinic at the Shiv Chhatrapati sports complex in Balewadi.

“Kids will talk in school, parents will talk at work, so the attitude of looking at differently abled people will change. If they see a handicapped person, they will not look at him/her with sympathy, but will tell them about a great future in sports,” added Prabhu.

Setting the example

To motivate differently abled people, Prabhu did a month-long 3,500-km Veer Kashmir to Kanyakumari road expedition, also promoting basic sign language, in 2016-2017.

“We need to do little more so that’s why I decide to drive from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. When I started my journey even my disabled friends said, ‘Boni there are no toilets and this and that’; but I said, ‘that’s why I am doing it’. If everything is there then why do I need to educate people, why do I need to fight and teach people sign language,” Prabhu explained.

Government support

The clearance to Right of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 Bill is “one of the most optimistic things to have happened for the country,” feels Prabhu.

“Country is progressing. I think disabled people should come out from under the shells. Disable people have too much of insecurity. You have to create things for yourself,” he says.

“Thankfully, platforms like Khelo India have given rise to so many opportunities for disabled sportspersons in the country. India did well in the recent Asian Para Games as well,” he said.

Next mission: 2020 Paralympics Games

Prabhu, who is 46-years-old is planning to retire from sports after 2020 Paralympics Games.

“I am hoping to participate in tennis and the ‘club throw’ event. If I take part in the club throw then it will be my seventh sporting discipline in which I will be representing country. I have already represented India in six disciplines.”

Disabled? Yes; Champion? Yes

2007: Winner, Sydney International Wheelchair Tennis Championship

2003: Runner-up, Sydney International Wheelchair Open Tennis

2003: Quarter finalist, Australian Open

2001: Winner, Japan Open Wheelchair Tennis Championship

1999: Winner, Sydney International Wheelchair Tennis Championship

1999: Runner up, Australian Open

1998: Semi finalist, singles and doubles, US Open

1998: Bronze medal winner, world championships

First Published: Dec 04, 2018 16:29 IST