After being chosen for the prestigious Padma Shri award, wheelchair tennis star Boniface Prabhu on Sunday hoped to get clearance from the Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) to compete in the 2016 Rio Paralympics.
“I hope PCI takes note of my achievements including the Padma Shri award and selects me to represent India at Rio Olympics,” he told PTI here.
PCI is the body responsible for selecting athletes to represent India at the Paralympic Games and other international athletic meets.
After participating at Atlanta Paralympics in 1996, Boniface has not participated in any of the paralympics ever since, despite being the highest-ranked Indian player.
“If PCI allows me to compete in Rio Paralympics, I will do my best to win a gold and do my country proud,” Boniface said.
Boniface is the first Indian wheelchair tennis player to reach the semifinals and finals of the major grand slam wheelchair tennis championships including Australian Open, British Open, French Open and US Open.
Boniface said he is very excited for being chosen for Padma Shri because he had put in hard work and faced hardships in his 20 years of tennis career.
“I came to know of my award yesterday when Union Home Ministry called me congratulating the achievement,” he said.
Boniface became the first Indian to win a medal at the 1998 World Championship, and in 1996 he won two gold medals and one silver medal at the World Wheelchair Games.
He fought all odds making his entry into the sport in 1994 after he suffered a wrong lumbar puncture in 1976 at a city hospital.
Throwing light on the hardships he faced, Boniface said he played tennis in trying circumstances without having proper equipment for the first 13 years.
“Though I was the top-ranked Indian player, I did not have quality equipment to compete with players from the US and other countries, who were well-equiped which helped them perform better,” he said.
Boniface, however, got quality equipment, mainly a power wheelchair and raquets, from Australia-based Pride Mobility and Wilson Inetrnational, respectively. “I got the right kind of equipment after I became the number one player in Asia,” he said.
Boniface is the recipient of various awards including the Ekalavya and Rajyotsava Award, the highest civilian award in the State.