I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul… says Murlikant Petkar
In the annals of Indian sport, there is probably no one who is as able bodied as Petkar, despite being a paraplegic.
The boy who ran away from home at the age of twelve to escape a mob out to lynch him, landed up in the Indian army where he learnt the skills of a solider. Still in his teens, he went on to become a wrestling champion for the army.
Petkar reached Kashmir at the age of eighteen only to be hit by a volley of 9 bullets ( with still one lodged in his spine) early in 1965 during our battle with Pakistan.
Fate turned him into a paraplegic, post which he entered the sports arena and won India’s first Olympic gold medal for swimming in Germany in 1972, and our first gold medal at the commonwealth games in 1970. Murlikant Petkar had won the gold in 50m freestyle swimming with a world record timing of 37.33 seconds.
This swimmer has just been informed of his name figuring in the list of awardees for the Padma shri
The war-veteran’s joy was special as the Padma honour came as a surprise. “I had applied for the Arjuna Award thrice, but it was rejected every time. “When I applied for the Arjuna last year, I was told that the policies have been changed and it would be difficult for me to get the Arjuna 44 years after my medal.
“It has been pleasure to serve the country for so many years and it really makes me feel proud. I am overwhelmed today. Says Murlikant Petkar. I am thankful to the government for honouring me, as I had lost almost all the hopes of getting a State honour,” he adds.
I was pleasantly surprised that I have been selected for the Padma Shri,” he added.
Murlikant Petkar is a real Indian Hero. As the first Indian to excel at various paraplegic games he led the way for differently abled sportsmen to win international medals and honour the country.
Muralikant Petkar’s achievements were chronicled in the book Courage Beyond Compare
(Sanjay and Medini Sharma) devoted to the stories of specially-abled athletes and was launched by former India captain Rahul Dravid in 2014.