Blog by: Raj Kishan
An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. So when life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means that it is going to launch you into something great. So just focus and keep aiming. So just focus and keep aiming. Life dragged him backwards, by making him quadriplegic but he didn’t lose him heart, he launched himself to greatness.
We are talking about Harry Boniface Prabhu, Indian quadriplegic wheelchair tennis player. He was born on 14 May 1972, at Bangalore. At the age of four, the tragedy struck, when a blotched lumbar made him paralysed below waist and made him a quadriplegic for the remainder of his life.
“My instructor came up to me and suggested that I should play a sport that will give me a better platform in life. So one fine day, I saw in one of our local newspaper that there is a disability national championship happening in Dharwad, in the north of Karnataka. First time I sat on a proper wheelchair and got a third place bronze in discus throw, followed by a gold medal. So it strongly motivated me and from there on I never looked back.” He said in an interview reminding how he came into sports. Now he is one of the pioneers in the sports world in India. He says that he took tennis because it keeps him busy all year, but the main reason is that the tennis association always trained disabled and abled players under one umbrella so he feels good about it.
As for his training, at first, he has a very tough training, the regime had him training six to seven hours a day. Later, he reduced the hours and worked on the mental aspects of the game. He does weight training and breathing exercises. Apart from that, he has normal training and wheels for ten to twenty hours a day. Speaking about his technique he says, “The technique is called on-court access. See, it will be easy for any person to move his body. But for me I have to maneuver 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.”
His career and medals are as follows:
:Winner – Sydney International Wheelchair Tennis Championship – 2007
Winner – Singles – Florida open – 2004
Winner – Doubles – Florida open – 2004
Runner-up – Sydney International Wheelchair Open Tennis – 2003
Quarter finalist – Australian Open International Wheelchair Tennis – 2003
Winner – Japan Open Wheelchair Tennis Championship – 2001
Winner – Sydney International Wheelchair Tennis Championship – 1999
Runner up – Australian Open – 1999
Semi finalist Singles – US Open – 1998
Semi finalist Doubles – US Open – 1998
Boniface has reached a career best world ranking of 17 in singles and 19 in doubles. He has been the highest ranked player in Asia in 2011, present ranking being no. 2. He is the no. 1 player in India. He has won 11 career titles and has featured in the finals of all the grand slam tournaments.
His awards and honours list is long and fine:
Padma Shri – Government of India – 2014
Rising Star of the Millennium Award
Ekalavya Award – Government of Karnataka – 2004
Rajyotsava Award – Government of Karnataka – 2003
Swabhiman Appreciation Award – Daijiworld Weekly – 2011
Boniface Prabhu is the founder of a trust, Boniface Prabhu Wheelchair Tennis Academy, based in Bangalore. The trust aims at promoting physically challenged people discovering and nurturing their talents. The Academy provides free sports training to differently enabled people.
He took to the cause of PWDs with open arms by driving 3,500 km from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. This was first of its kind road expedition by a quadriplegic athlete.
“Just chase your dreams,” is the simple yet profound message of Harry Boniface. So, just go for it.