Murlikant Petkar has been a hero in every sense. He has brought India laurels in battlefield as well as in sporting ground. He is the first-ever gold medalist at the Paralympic Games, but the people of the country hardly know him.
Petkar was a part of the Indian army and was a jawan of craftsman rank and fought the war against Pakistan in 1965. He is a war hero who suffered two bullet injuries that ended his career as a soldier. But this didn’t stop him anyway, as he continued to serve his country in the field of sports.
He started his career as a boxer at the Corps of Electronics and Mechanical Engineers in Secunderabad, but after his injuries, he took up swimming. He was multi-talented and made his mark by also playing table tennis, javelin throw, and slalom. He reached the second round of 1968 Paralympics in table tennis. In 1972, he made history in Heidelberg Paralympics, by bringing first individual medal for the country in Olympics. He clinched the gold medal by finishing 50-metre freestyle swimming in 37.331 seconds.
He also participated in javelin throw, precision javelin throw and slalom that year and was one of the finalists in each of the events.
Despite winning four international medals in swimming, his name doesn’t feature in the Paralympic Committee of India, because it started to keep records after 1984.
Petkar was felicitated last year by cricketer Rahul Dravid at the launch of former Indian shuttler Sanjay Sharma’s book on Indian athletes who overcame disability.