'Missing’ Olympian ready to sacrifice ‘everything’ for homecoming
A “missing” Olympian and India’s finest boxer Gurcharan Singh, who did a vanishing act from a National coaching camp in Czech Republic in 2000, soon after missing out on medal in Sydney Olympics by a whisker, has desired to “sacrifice” everything- name, fame and money earned during his stint in United States - for his “return” to India. Amit Sharma reports.india Updated: Oct 23, 2009 22:29 IST
Back here in his native village near Samrala Singh’s father Jagir Singh said he was never in favour of his son’s “exit” from country in a manner he did nine year ago. He said, “Teer se nikala kaamn to vapis aa nahin sakta but at the same time it is always better to be late than never”. Acknowledging that his son always wanted to come back Jagir Singh said he had expressed his regrets on his wrong doing umpteen times during past few years but could not make his mind public as he knew he was under “obligations” and “contracts” to play for his sponsorers. “ It is good that he has finally opened up”, said boxer father, adding that feared that if do so his dream of becoming a world champion would go unfulfilled. “Had he not suffered a shoulder and knee injury during a practice session held a week prior to the bout for title he would have been world champion by now. But fate has something else in store for him. He had to undergo a surgery and had to wait for another few months to get near to title”, Jagir Singh said while preparing a packet of desi ayurvedic medicines to be sent to Gurcharan in US.
He says his only motive behind his keenness to return to India is to make a “sincere” effort to do away with the blot of being an “army deserter” or “fugitive” Indian Olympian. “ I can not take these suffixes before my name for long. During all those years I earned dollars as well as rarest of rare luxuries of life but these two words attached to my name back in Indian media as well as sports circles continue to haunt me day and night. I have a lot to regret and indeed still an Indian and a sincere Fauzi of Sikh regiment from core of my heart,” the repenting Indian boxer told Hindustan Times over the telephone from his residence in Atlantic city in United States.
In lieu of his “trouble free” entry into India, Singh, an aspiring world champion with an average earning of more than $20,000 for a single bout, said, he wanted “nothing” but any “opportunity, which he could utilise to detach his name from demeaning suffixes”. He fantasise about using his professional experience gained during past decade in US in coaching and imparting training to Indian boxers to build “Team India” to ensure a medal in Olympics and Asian games. He explained, “I am not asking for millions of dollars that our federations and managements unabashedly spent in hiring foreign coaches and trainers but a respectful living and a close association with Indian boxing team. I am sure that my association would benefit the pugilists”.
Asked as why did it take so long for him to think about returning India, Gurcharan said he always wanted to do so, even days after deserting Indian camp in Czech Republic but was discouraged by a section of “prejudiced” top ranking boxing federation officials and Indian media. Within days of abandoning coaching camp he realized “blunder” and wanted to rectify it. He claimed that he had expressed his desire for homecoming and conveyed it to a top Boxing federation official while volunteered for any penalty. “ But they lambasted me and warned me of legal and police action through statements in media. Since I was already dejected and feeling humiliated at the hands of federation for their failure in raising objections against biased judgment during quarterfinals in Sydney Olympics, such an attitude angered me further. At that point of time I decided first to prove my mettle internationally. I earned name, fame and money. Glory continued to stick to my name in every part of world except India where I was labeled a traitor, deserter or a fugitive. Now I have dared to sacrifice all this to get rid of these labels for which I am ready to pay anything to everything”, he said.
Hailing from a “fuazi” family settled here in Rurehwall village in Ludhiana, Gurcharan Singh, a bronze medallist in Bangkok Asian games and the only pugilist to qualify for quarter grade in Olympics had returned “dejected” and “heartbroken” from Sydney. “Shocked” to learn about the erring silence of Indian officials on the “biased” judgment during quarterfinals, which declared him defeated by Ukrainian Andrei Fedtchouk, Singh returned to India but only to go missing while attending a national coaching camp in Europe on February 20,2000. From there he landed in USA and renewed his contacts with super bantamweight Debind Thapa, Nepal's first professional boxer whom Singh was introduced to during Atlanta Olympics in 1996. “ The things started working out positively and my days of obscurity and anger started nearing end”, Singh recalled. Within no time US Boxing Association granted him an envious position of sixth top professional boxer in world. “It rained dollars and dollars but I continued to yearn for internal satisfaction and peace of mind. Except my father I could not tell anyone that how perturbed I was about my escape from national camp. Let them (Union or state government) give a single small opportunity and I would be right there to make my India proud again”, Singh told HT.
Singh said he was uncontrollably delighted when his father told him that army ( which he was serving when he left country) has not thrown me out . “ I am still in army and my heart remain in Sikh regiment. I really miss my regiment fellows and indebted to what they did for me to build and shape my career as a boxer”.