India's Paralympians have long fought to bring glory to the nation and with their stellar achievements, made India proud multiple times.
But the story of how India won its first Paralympic gold at the 1972 Heidelberg Paralympics is one that not many people are aware of. But they should.
The Twitter account India Wants To Know - Panel Quiz Show shared the story of Murlikant Petkar, who won India its first gold in Freestyle Swimming at the Paralympics. And in doing so, he also broke the world record.
This is how Murlikant Petkar went on to win India’s first Paralympic gold in 1972 Heidelberg Paralympics.— India Wants To Know - Panel Quiz Show (@IWTKQuiz) November 2, 2021
He not only won the gold, but also broke the world record.
He turned 74 yesterday.
Some stories need to be told. pic.twitter.com/czXlhkgojC
Murlikant Petkar battled poverty, war wounds, and attempted suicide, to become India's first Paralympic Gold medalist. A war hero, 74-year-old Petkar started showcasing his wrestling and boxing skills as a kid.
After he was enrolled at the Boys Battalion of the Indian Army in Pune, he started training for sports professionally. He was hailed as a rising sports star, and even represented the Indian Army in Boxing at the 1964 International Services Sports Meet, held in Tokyo, Japan.
But in 1965, during the Indo-Pak war, he was shot by 7 different bullets that hit his skull, spine, cheeks, and thighs, and left him disabled.
Dejected, he almost contemplated suicide, when a chance game of Table Tennis changed his life's direction. Soon after, he took to sports again, and cricketer Vijay Merchant even sponsored his flight.
Vijay Merchant was heading an NGO that supported disabled persons and his organisation paid for my tickets.
- Petkar to Paralympic Org
And in 1972, Petkar won India its first Paralympic gold. This, despite the lack of funds and equipment for differently-abled people in India at the time.
45 years after his Paralympic win, in 2018, Petkar was awarded the Padma Shri, India's fourth-highest civilian award.
What an inspiration!
You can read more about him here.