I, Madhavi Latha Prathigudupu, am an Associate Vice President, in an MNC Bank, former national paralympic swimming champion, a sports administrator, a socially conscious person, a speaker and an author. I am affected by massive polio attack which left me with over 80% permanent disability.
I believe that there can be no barriers for your endeavours when you truly believe in yourself.
I hail from Sathupalli in Khammam district of Telengana State. I was affected by polio when I was 7 months old. Throughout my school going years, my brother and father had to physically carry me to all my classes. During my formative years, my family played an extremely supportive role and never let me feel left out/marginalized in any way. However, I didn’t have it easy due to inaccessible environment. I appeared as a private candidate for the intermediate board exams in my hometown of Sathupalli and had to take special permission to write the paper on logical reasoning as I was the only student who opted that subject. I completed graduation in Mathematics and Public Administration by appearing privately. I worked hard to clear the banking recruitment exams and got a job in a pubic sector bank. I had to learn to speak fluently in English, when I moved to Hyderabad as I had a Telugu medium education. I put myself through numerous professional certifications from reputed institutions, some from the U.S and the U.K. When I left my public sector banking job with 15 years service and decided to move to Chennai in 2006, my extended family thought it would be a bad idea as it would be difficult for me to shift to another state with my old parents. But I amn’t someone to back out of a challenging situation! I faced a crisis in 2007, when my health deteriorated because of post polio syndrome which led to severe spine compression and muscle weakness. At that time, there were two choices in front of me –a risky spinal surgery or Hydrotherapy. I chose the latter, not knowing that it would change my life and the lives of others forever...
I started taking part in Paralympic swimming competitions and till date had won around 30 medals, in various national and state championships! I didn’t just stop at competing. I lent my experiences in leadership skills and corporate exposure to the sport. I initiated the formation of Paralympic swimming association of Tamil Nadu which helped more than 300 persons with disabilities to learn swimming and participate at state, national and international level competitions. Empowered by the freedom of competitive sports, I explored wheelchair basketball. I attended and organized seminars and workshops. I am the founder president of ‘The wheelchair Basketball Federation of India’ which worked tirelessly under my presidentship and introduced this sport to more than 700 persons with disabilities in 24 states/UTs.I wanted to share the life changing benefits of sports with more people. I founded “Yes, We Too Can!!!”, a movement aimed at encouraging persons with disabilities to take up sports to maintain their health as well as improve their confidence. Many persons with disabilities feel unproductive and diffident due to lack of equal opportunities. I want to contribute to change this situation. Through our Swimming Assn and Wheelchair Basketball federation, we organized training sessions for athletes and coaches, tied up with state governments and have been using social media to create awareness for the cause. I set up the YWTC charitable trust to bring together like-minded people for the welfare of the persons with disabilities. The results are showing. The Tamil Nadu State Government issued Govt Orders to support Paralympic sports including the construction of barrier free swimming pool according to international standards and the order for equal cash incentives for the adaptive sports athletes on par with Olympic athletes etc.Through ‘Yes, We Too Can!!!’ movement, I support the persons with disabilities to break their physical and mental barriers and realize their true potential through competitive sports. I am putting all my efforts to make the facilities/infrastructure accessible for adaptive sports and in changing laws so that future generations of athletes with disabilities will have it easier. ‘Yes, We Too Can!!!’ is not just a clever slogan. It is a confident affirmation that the persons with disabilities are as productive, capable as anybody else and can do everything a person without disability can do.
Taking the Plunge
The first time I entered the water, I felt liberated; a journey from walker to water. I could do many movements in water that I cannot do on the ground. With the characteristic of my “never say die” attitude, I taught myself swimming and then sought the help of coach who came forward to train me. My unexpected foray into the swimming pool was the pivot that catapulted me into the world of competitive swimming.