Para-Champion Madhavi Latha Pens Life Story in 'Swimming Against the Tide'
Paralympic champion Madhavi Latha hopes her book ‘Swimming Against the Tide' will serve as an inspiration.
In 2008, when Madhavi was affected by polio, her doctors told her that her days were numbered as the disease had compressed her spinal cord. That is when she set foot in water and defeated fate.
In her book, ‘Swimming Against the Tide,’ Madhavi Latha Prathigudupu writes about her tryst to become a Para swimming champion at the age of 40.
The para-athlete has around 30 national and state-level swimming medals in her kitty.
“I always wanted to write a book about my journey to inspire many people to push boundaries. It was amazing to reminisce the happy moments and be grateful for all that I have been able to accomplish. And looking back at the people who treated me bad and denied me basic rights, I don't feel any anger. Instead, I am happy that I overcame those hurdles. I empathise with the society that treated me that way,” she told The Quint.
She started the initiative, “Yes We Too Can,” through which she is inspiring young persons from across the country to not let disabilities stop them from flying high.
She later started the Paralympic Swimming Association of Tamil Nadu in 2011, with four para-swimmers. Today it has around 300 para-swimmers. In 2014, Prathigudupu and a few others, took the initiative to form the national body – Wheelchair Basketball Federation of India (WBFI).
Over the past five years, WBFI, of which Prathigudupu is currently the president, has organised six national championships and sent Indian wheelchair basketball teams to four international events. Last year, the Indian men and women’s teams took part in the Asia Oceania Zone Championships and the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics Qualifiers held in Pattaya, Thailand.
Madhavi was born and brought up in Sathupally, a small town in Khammam district of Telangana, and later moved to Chennai for work. Having faced adversities all her life, she made it her life’s purpose to encourage players from disadvantaged backgrounds to participate in sports.
As her career as a para-swimming champion advanced, Madhavi Latha touched the lives of many. Perumal, another para-athlete, recollects watching an interview of Madhavi in Podhigai channel in 2012. He had just met with an accident and was feeling let down after losing one of his limbs. Inspired by her words, he tracked her down to meet her. Today he is a national swimming champion, running a successful chain of restaurants.
“She showed me the way, got me different opportunities and within two months of meeting her, I won the state level completion and a silver medal at the national level. I used to struggle so much. Whenever there is a match, we would travel from our village to Chennai just so we can eat a good meal that she arranges for and be ready for the competition,” he said.
Excerpt from 'Swimming Against the Tide'
'When I saw Perumal for the first time, he was covering his hand with a towel. He met with an accident and lost his hand. He hesitated to show his hand to others, mainly out of apprehensions that people will judge him as less capable seeing the deformity. During the national championship, he slowly gained confidence and comfort with the cohort of other players and officials, and I saw him moving around without a towel. I asked him why he was not covering his hand. He told me that after seeing so many other persons with disabilities who had accepted and come to terms with with disability were confident of themselves without hiding their disabilities he thought that there was no point in hiding his disability. Accepting ourselves with whatever challenges we have is the first step to lead our lives with confidence and cheerfulness. He went on to win many medals at the national level. Today he is the owner of a small business (that has four tea shops) and employs around 25 people in his business. He proudly displays all the medal-receiving photos and paper cuttings in his shops. Whoever comes to his tea shop looks at him with great admiration. He has become a role model for many.'
Athlete Priyanka told The Quint that all it took was one call to Madhavi during the pandemic, and help reached her bedside. "I have met her only once but I am very grateful to her as today I have regained the confidence, I lost it after my amputation. She has helped me find a new job through which I am able to help many more people and that gives me immense joy."
Excerpt from 'Swimming Against the Tide':
"A recent incident touched my heart. This was about how WBFI, the state association and my network collectively worked to save the life of one of our athletes. I received a call from one of our state associations, informing me that one of our athletes had fractured her leg. It turned out that immediate surgery was essential. We had to be quick to find support. Suddenly, I remembered Mr Ravi Jha, IAS who had water needed my first talk at LBSNAA, Mussoorie. I messaged him on a Friday night. He immediately connected me with Mr Bharadwaj, IRS from Delhi, who instantly worked to have the IRS officials and an IPS officer personally contributed to her surgery, Mr Shakeel (from Jammu and Kashmir) and other officials spoke to the doctor, who without waiting for the payment of fees did the surgery successfully on Sunday evening. I was truly overwhelmed by the miracle that had happened almost overnight. The kind hearts and helping hands of a few friends and many strangers United for the well-being of an athlete."
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