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Serve and volley

MOTIVATING FORCE Harry Boniface Prabhu. Photo: K. Gopinathan   | Photo Credit: Photo: K. Gopinathan

“Just chase your dreams,” is the simple yet profound message of Harry Boniface Prabhu for disabled children who aspire but do not have a roadmap.

The quadriplegic wheelchair tennis player is a sporting icon, who is looked up to by a number of sports enthusiasts, is doing his bit to make life easier and comfortable for persons with disabilities. He has urged the government to introduce laws to help disabled people with better infrastructure.

On his part, the Padmashri awardee, who helps in teaching basic sign language lessons to community members in Gurugram, is now leading a month long 3,500 km Thums Up Veer Kashmir to Kanyakumari road expedition to promote the cause .

Excerpts from an interview:

Explain the reason for pursuing tennis despite having excelled in athletics

Playing a sport was my priority and I chose tennis over other sports as it kept me busy throughout the year and tennis is a mainstream sport. I still play other sports but only once in a year. The good part of being a tennis player was that the tennis association always trained disabled and abled players under one umbrella.

Tell us about your training schedule

Earlier, I had a tough training schedule of six to seven hours every day. Then I reduced the training hours and realised that tennis is more of a mental activity than physical training. I do weights and normal breathing exercises to stay active all the time. Apart from that, my training is very normal and I wheel for ten to 20 hours a day.

Please elaborate on the technique

The technique is called on-court access. See, it will be easy for anyperson to move his body. But for me I have to manoeuvrea wheelchair on the court. I prefer a manual chair and not happy on a power chair because when you serve, in seconds you have to be ready to receive the ball which can only be possible in a manual chair.

Who are your role models?

Well, in sports I have had plenty of people whom I have admired. Of course, Roger Federer is the best, but apart from him my childhood hero was John McEnroe. Steffi Graff also inspired me. Apart from tennis personalities, I admire Sachin Tendulkar as what he has given to cricket is really commendable. Moreover, I am a great fan of football and I would follow what all Diego Maradona would do. So I would watch all his football matches.

Do you face any difficulty while accessing theatres and restaurants?

There are many places which made me feel that I am a disabled person. That is why I decided to take up this journey. See, we have many laws and acts like The Persons With Disabilities Act, 1995. All I feel is that there is a lack of knowledge and awareness in society about disabled persons. That is why our team has joined hands to spread the message.

Do you think that government’s schemes and initiatives are helping disabled persons?

See, Prime Minister laid the seed by launching a scheme like Accessible India. Now it is our responsibility to carry it forward. Therefore, our group is focussing in championing the cause of Accessible India in order to become the voice of India to create awareness about disabled persons. We will have to stop blaming the government for not taking initiatives because everything is dependent on how society perceives disability.


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Printable version | Nov 21, 2021 5:26:41 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/tennis/Serve-and-volley/article16705651.ece

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