By A Sports Correspondent in New Delhi

‘One of the finest male athletes to emerge con the Indian sporting scene ever is Bahadur Prasad. The 24-year old Railway Ticket Collector has leased new hopes in the forthcoming Beijing Asian Games, as one of the sure hit medal prospect. Taking to athletics as late as in 1987, Bahadur has stride away all competition and surfaced with a rich blend of talent, zest determination and confidence. Displaying considerable improvement in meet after meet Bahadur has even eclipsed the 23-year-old record of Edward Sequeria in the 1989 Permit Meet in Delhi, Recently, in a training circuit at Belfast, he timed 3.41:98, bettering his own record breaking 3.43:40.

Bahadur Prasad’s success story from a modest beginning in Ballia (UP) to the nation’s latest Track Prince has been amaze. Shooting into the limelight with the Tiruvanandapuram National Games in 1987 with a superlative victory in the 10,000 meters, clocking 30.27 minutes, he has never looked back. Switching from events to meets, he has maintained steadily an unchallenged position.

Renowned British coach Harry Wilson too played a crucial role in shaping Bahadurs career. Foreseeing enough potential ‘and energy in him to go about the 10,000 metres with ease, Wilson made him switch over to 1,800 metres which paid dividends. Utilizing that stamina, he did not find it tough to conquer the field in a short span of time,

Daring the recent Athletic meets (National open, Inter-State, Escorts Masters and Singapore Open) Bahadur has qualified twice over for the Beijing Games, and all eyes are set on him for a gold in Asia.

But Bahadur with all the adulation he receives today, 1s deeply dissatisfied at the pitiable conditions of athletes in India. He curses the day when he won the gold which seriously initiated him into athletics. He says, “I still wonder why I won the meet there (at Tiruvanandapuram), all these years have traumatized me no end. We athletes are forgotten after every meet. No ‘one bothers to provide us the facilities that are required. Too many things go into the making of an international athlete, Politics ‘and corruption in every field are restricting our amenable talent to emerge out”.

Short, well-built, soft-spoken but critical, Bahadur Prasad in a candid conversation with this correspondent spoke at length (on his life and times intrigued at being the brightest star of Indian athletics.


Q: Well, Bahadur, what initiated you into taking athletics so seriously?

A: My sports career began rather late, to be precise, in 1987, when I was posted at Azamgarh, as a constable in UP Police. I was 22 then. In my very first race I came second. Then in UP Police Meet I came fourth, which further instilled confidence in me I started training harder after that and took to cross-country race. In the cross country race I came first in the sector meet and the UP Police Meet, followed by the 1987 Tiruvanandapuram National Games. ‘Wherein, | won the gold medal in 10,000 m. The results of my initial hard work made me take to athletics seriously.

Q: What really attracted you to take athletics so late?

A: It just happened. In the police you have to do long hours of duty. I thought that if | did sports then I would be able to escape doing duty. ): What kind of encouragement did you initially have. Who was the driving force behind your meteoric rise in athletics? ‘As there are many people who are responsible for where I am today. At the beginning it was Mr Manoj Kumar, an IPS officer, who recruited me, He used to keep 1a close watch on us, Only when he was convinced that I could do well did he given instructions that I should be relieved from duty and be allowed to train, Then Mr B.P. ‘Singh, UP Police coach, enabled me to go to Tiruvanandapuram, My team-mate Nardeo Singh also proved to be a great support. He gave me lots of tips for my improvisation.

Q: Does that mean nobody paid attention to you after that record-breaking performance?

A: Nobody bothers about us at all. For instance, in the 1989 ATF Meet, I won the silver medal in the 5,000 m and the 1,500 m. everybody only said,

“Shabash, Bahadur! shabash Bahadur!” But that’s all. The duty as a ticket collector at Agra and all these people forget me.

Q: What do you say about the Amateur Athletic Federation of India’s (AFI) initiative in promoting athletics? Promised cash incentives to medal winners. What about that?

A: Yes, the federation is doing a lot for us now, because if it didn’t, we athletes would be orphaned. The federation should naturally come to our help.

Another thing 1 would like to highlight here is regarding the diet the athletes get at the camps, the Sports Authority of India (SAD) spends Rs 60 for a day’s diet and what’s visible on our dining table is worth far less and substandard. Shouldn’t attention be paid to all this?

Q: You consider your AIF performance as the most memorable moment of your career. What kind of experience was it?

A: The AIF meet remains memorable since the victory there was close to my heart cherish that moment.

Q: You have been demanding a personal coach for long. Why is the request not being heeded 10?

‘A: Who knows the policy makers make strange decisions, perhaps, if [had a Personal coach, like every athlete does in the West, maybe I would have improved considerably over these years. These are my best years and I need someone of Harry Wilson’s stature to guide me to the top.

Q: Are you satisfied with other facilities given to you?

A: What facilities? There is the food problem, the coach problem, and then our living standards are below par, at present m sharing my room with three others: There is no privacy, amidst all this how do you expect us to perform? We are not given the required tournament of international exposure, only camps do not make you a champion.

Q: With all these factors behind you, what do you forecast in Beijing?

A: Doom! It may be a disaster for India, Barring a few exceptions here and there, it’ll be nothing to write home about. 1 wonder how the Minister (Bhakticharan Das) has optimistically claimed we would win nearly “sixty” medals!

Article extracted from this publication >> September 28, 1990