'Can't disabled sportsmen be awarded?'

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Bangalore:  Denied an Arjuna award thrice, India's No 1 wheelchair tennis player wants to know why disabled sportsmen are overlooked for awards.

Boniface Prabhu is as familiar with not winning awards in our country as he is with winning grandslams internationally. This Asia No 2 in the quadriplegic was informed by the Sports Ministry two years ago that he has been chosen for the prestigious Arjuna Award.

To receive the award, Boniface pulled out of the Swiss Open only to realise that his name was dropped mysteriously.

"Nobody had the courtesy to tell me why they invited me and didn't give me the award. I want to know who stopped it," says Boniface.

Boniface says he is another Milkha Singh or Mary Kom who the authorities had failed to recognise for many years.

Boniface became the first Indian in the history of International Paralympic Games to win a medal. He also won the championship in the 2007 Sydney International Wheelchair Open Tennis. He raises a very potent question: If 14 Arjuna Awards can be given to abled sportspersons, why only one for so many disabled but deserving sportsmen?

"Don't the disabled too play all sports? Then why only one award, when you have one each from a sport in the able category?" he says.

With change of guard in the Sports Ministry, many like Boniface hope there are no spokes in the wheels of the deserving. But with or without the Arjuna Award in August, his arms and wheels will continue to be as swift at the US Open in September this year.



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