M. Prabhakara Rao, the forgotten star of Indian athletics

It was unfortuante that the career of Rao ran parallel to some of the greats like Olympian Gopal Saini in the 3,000m steeplechase events.

Former international athlete M. Prabhakara Rao from Hyderabad.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

 

He is the forgotten star of Indian athletics.

It was unfortuante that the career of M. Prabhakara Rao from Hyderabad ran parallel to some of the greats like Olympian Gopal Saini in the 3,000m steeplechase events.

So, not surprisingly, Rao was inevitably second, settling for three silver and a bronze in the Inter-State championships between 1975-82 besides a couple of gold in the Inter-Railway meets in the steeplechase event.

"And, to my bad luck at my peak and being close to making it to the 1982 Delhi Asian Games, I was down with dengue and had to witness the competitions from the stands.

“Somehow, though the top two were to represent India in the Asian-level championships and the Asiads, despite being No. 2 for long I was never considered ,” says 68-year-old Rao in a chat with Sportstar.

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“To be very frank, those days, long and middle-distance runners from the South, however good they were, didn’t get the due as the athletes from North were preferred for long,” says the athlete, who is now working as an advanced marathon coach for Striders (Mumbai).

Rao says middle and long-distance running is an art of science and one needs to work a lot on metabolism. “Every aspect of training has to be natural and no athlete can afford to resort dubious means,” he insists even while being grateful to his coach Kesava Reddy.

Some of the high-points of his career include outpacing the likes of Asian gold medallists Suresh Yadav, Doswanda Singh in the distance events in the Inter-Railway meets much to their dismay.

“As a distance runner I completed 50 years, covering more than three lakh km which I don't think anyone in India achieved,” proudly says the athlete, who ran without normal canvas shoes and sometimes barefoot at his peak.

 “Well, my biggest regret is not to represent India in the Asiad,” he signs off.

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