Eric Prabhakar passes away

Eric Prabhakar

He was 86. Prabhakar is survived by his wife Saro Prabhakar and three sons — Dev, Sathi and Jay.

Prabhakar represented the country in the 100 metres at the 1948 London Olympics where he made the quarterfinals.

The Chennai-born sprinter dominated the national sprinting scene in the 1940s. He also excelled in academics and was the first Rhodes’ Scholar from the country.

After finishing his Masters in economics with first class from the Madras Christian College, Prabhakar got the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford, where he met athletics legend Roger Bannister, the first man to break the four-minute barrier in the mile.

Prabhakar, who later became an Oxford Blue in athletics, got an opportunity to train with Bannister on the cinder tracks of Oxford, where the Briton was a professor in clinical psychiatry.

He also cultivated a friendship with US legend Jesse Owens, who won four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Prabhakar cherished those moments, as recounted by him in an interview with this paper. “That was the best part of my life. It was just such a nice thing to have such legends as friends,” he had said.

Prabhakar’s love for sport started during his school days at the Baldwin Boys' High School in Bangalore. Though Prabhakar shot to fame as a sprinter, during his five years at the Madras Christian College he was their opening bowler in cricket and also played as centre-half for the college’s hockey team.

Prabhakar, always keen to spread his knowledge, also authored four books, including 'The Way To Athletic Gold' that has a foreword by Bannister.

He also served as a sports administrator and was the Tamil Nadu Amateur Athletic Association president besides serving as the vice-president of the Amateur Athletic Federation of India.

Veteran athlete Kenneth Powell, who followed in Prabhakar’s footsteps and went on to represent the country at the Olympic Games in 1964, expressed his condolences. “He was an excellent sprinter and his demise is a big loss to the sporting fraternity,” Powell said.

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