VIRUDHUNAGAR: Nobody ever teaches one to dream, however big or small. But to make that dream come true may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Against the backdrop of the recently concluded Tokyo Paralympics, here’s an athlete-turned-auto rickshaw driver from Aruppukottai, Porchezhiyan, who continues to live in the hopes of his dreams, too, materialising, one day.
It would have been a different life for the physically disabled 34-year-old sportsperson had he enough financial resources to participate in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil. However, Porchezhiyan’s life took a turn after 2014, the year he last participated in a sports competition, after which the athlete found no sponsor.
Ever since he has been doing odd jobs and is now a self-employed auto-driver. “Back in 2012, paralympic gold medallist, Mariyappan, and I stayed in the same practice ground in Bengaluru. We were training in our respective sport events to enter the Paralympics then. However, things did not work well for me as I neither had a financial resource nor found any sponsor. People are ready to sponsor a start-up or a petty shop. But when it comes to sports, they ask ‘What are you going to achieve by doing this?’,” said Porchezhiyan.
He added that there is a bias in extending support to sportspersons. “Nobody keeps track of an athlete. If somebody wins a medal, people tend to go behind them for some time. But in reality, there are many para sportspersons in our State, especially in rural areas. If we are provided proper training and given the necessary support, we can shine bright,” the athlete added.
Pained by the fact that his life did not turn out the way he wanted it to, Porchezhiyan has stopped watching sports channels altogether. “But I do keep track of what is going on,” he said, adding that if given an opportunity now, he would grab it right away.
Porchezhiyan was one of the first three people from Tamil Nadu to participate in the first Asian Para Tenpin Bowling Federation Championship, held in Thailand in 2014. “I entered the field when I was just 20 years old, motivated by my master, Krishnamoorthy. I was working in an NGO named Young India Society then. Though I started participating in fencing competitions, I was later coached in the shot put as well. Another master, Venkatesan, was the one who introduced me to the tenpin bowling,” Porchezhiyan told TNIE.
Later, he took part in many district-level, State-level, and national-level competitions, and also won a silver medal in shot put at the Delhi Rajiv Gandhi Foundation Sports Meet in 2014. For the past couple of years, Porchezhiyan has been running an auto-rickshaw, sponsored by one Senjolai Seva Trust. He had also worked at a computer centre and taken up odd jobs prior to that.