The race at Oxford

Sports and academics? No, you can't excel in both." This is a common refrain among sportspersons. But not of the 75-year-old former athlete, Eric Prabhakar.

Prabhakar was the national champion in the 100 metres and 200 metres for six consecutive years; from 1942 to 1948. Even as he was blazing across the track, he played cricket for the college team as the opening bowler. Besides, he also captained his college hockey team.

He was quarter finalist in the 1948 London Olympics where he completed the 100 metres in 10.6 seconds. He lost the medal by a mere 0.3 seconds -- the timing of the gold medalist was 10.3 seconds.

As he was preparing for the London Olympics, he was selected to join the Indian Administrative Service; the first batch to be selected after Independence. But Eric did not accept the post and instead, decided to go to Oxford as a Rhodes scholar.

He was the first Indian to receive the Rhodes scholarship. At Oxford, with him was the man who won the silver at the London Olympics. He represented Great Britain at the Olympics while Eric represented India. Eric can take pride in the fact that he beat the silver medalist at Oxford, if not on the track! Eric was the first Indian Oxford Blue in athletics. His activities were not confined to athletics alone, he also played tennis for the Oxford tennis team.

All this while he ensured that academics never took a back seat. He was the third rank holder in economics in his time at Madras University. He did his postgraduation in economics from Oxford and joined UNESCO. He lived in Paris till his retirement while his work took him all around the world.

He wrote in his book, The way to athletic gold -- A training manual for Indian athletic excellence, 'I am now ready to turn my attention to the more serious business of giving. I am now ready to contribute to my country's well-being and to the care of my country's young athletes. I am prepared to share my experience; open up my life for the young to see, and give back to our youth something of the benefits I have derived from athletics. In them lies the future of our country, for in them there is talent in abundance to be spotted and developed. I want to help them on their way to the Olympic stadium.'

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