How 'Raja' Subramanian overcame the odds to excel at billiards

Sport often throws up tales of athletes overcoming extraordinary odds armed with nothing but sheer willpower and dedication. Matunga Gymkhana’s Venkateshwaran Subramanian is one such story that is merits a mention on World Disability Day today.

Venkateshwaran Subramanian
Venkateshwaran Subramanian during the Maharashtra State Selection Billiards & Snooker Tournament at Malabar Hill Club yesterday. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi

Subramanian, popularly known as Raja, is an international athlete battling two disabilities — loss of sight in his right eye and a polio-afflicted right leg. Subramanian’s talent however, comfortably sees him through his shortage of sight in a sport that requires unwavering precision coupled with an incredible hand-eye coordination to understand angles.

Add to this the fact that even in its shorter format, cue sport requires players to stand on their feet for at least a couple of hours, and we have a bigger challenge on hand. But even this does not faze Subramanian, who lost his eye in a freak accident when he was just six years old (in Class I).

“The leg is not a problem anymore, because the game of billiards has become shorter. Even my eye doesn’t affect my performance too much as I began playing the sport like that. If my eye injury had happened sometime after I had taken up the sport, it would have surely had an effect. There are still certain angles and certain shots where the disability does create a problem, but there are other ways to adjust and work around it,” Subramanian told MiD DAY.

In fact, Subramanian has ‘adjusted’ to his disabilities so well that he recently competed in the prestigious World Billiards Championship in Leeds where he lost in the Round of 32 to eventual champion, David Causier, in the game’s shorter format. The cueist had also faltered at the same stage of the tournament last year.

While the sport of billiards has no separate category for disabled cueists, Subramanian’s achievements are testament to the fact that he is capable of taking on the best in the business — only last year he was ranked No 2 in Maharashtra and No 8 in India. However, his achievements have not received the recognition they deserve, felt Subramanian.

No encouragement
“Despite the disability, I have done well in the open category. But there has been no recognition as such for my efforts. Time and again I have approached and written to corporates for funding but have been disappointed by their reaction. Somehow I’ve always drawn a blank. Corporates must encourage disabled athletes,” said Subramanian who currently teaches accounts at home for a living because his attempts time and again to secure a permanent job have failed.

“I have applied for a job on the basis of my sports credentials too at many places. But even that has not materialised for some reason or other. If I had some corporate backing, life would be a lot more meaningful and focused,” rued Subramanian, who has never received any financial backing whatsoever apart from the one occasion last year when the Billiard and Snooker Association of Maharashtra (BSAM) gave him Rs 25,000 and a gentleman from Pune sponsored his air ticket to travel for the World Championships.  

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