Special sports: R. Prasad boasts of an impressive catalogue of accomplishment and strives to achieve more

Sport can be tiring. The strain of competition eventually tells. After 20 years of being an athlete, R. Prasad thinks he’s had enough. “Saaku, sir,” he grins. “I’m tired.”

Prasad’s dossier of certificates is a heavy thing, a thick, proud catalogue of accomplishment. There is a bronze medal with the State basketball team at the 1995 Special Olympics, a gold in the 4x100 relay, a handball gold in ’98, an Independence Day Award from the Governor in 2005, a softball silver last year.

“He has the talent,” Prasad’s father, R. Ramu is at pains to state. “Age is not a boundary at these events for the disabled. I keep telling my son he should go on as long as he can.”

When Prasad was five, he boarded the wrong bus home from school, alighted lost near Maharani’s College and was felled by a speeding auto-rickshaw. Injury to the brain resulted in intellectual disability – with behavioural and speech problems and turned life upside down.

“I took him everywhere,” Ramu says, “but there was nothing that could be done.” A small-scale garment salesman, he struggled. “Help came in dribs and drabs, but it came from many places.”

At the Association for the Mentally Challenged, Prasad took to organized physical activity with great relish. “He was fond of sport,” Usha Joseph Kumar, Special Educator at the AMC, recalls. “He was mad about it.”

In August 1987, only a year after the accident, Prasad ran the Freedom Run, an event held to mark 40 years of independence. He won nothing that day, but it was the beginning of 20 years of happy success. “It is fate,” Prasad smiles, drawing an imaginary line across his forehead. “What can I say?”

Prasad today works as an office help, a job his father is grateful for. There is still time for sport, though; this week he’s bound for the Special Olympics-Bharat in Mehsana, Gujarat, turning out for the Karnataka volleyball team. “We have a good side,” the 32-year-old nods. “Punjab is always strong but maybe we’ll win.”

For all of Prasad’s protestations that work and play are getting too much to handle together, the father is firm. “My sister’s kids are all into software but I remind my son that he is always a sportsman,” Ramu says. “And very few can be that.”