The unbridled joy is intact on Major Surendra Poonia's face despite the army man winning three medals at the World Medical Games in Porec (Croatia) more than a fortnight back.
The 31-year-old Presidential Bodyguard says the will to do something for the nation pushed him to perform beyond expectations despite being the country's lone flag-bearer at the July 3-10 Games.
A multi-faceted personality, Poonia studied medicine at the Armed Forces Medical College in Pune before opting for the special forces. Hailing from a family of farmers in Sikar, Rajasthan, Poonia now has, apart from the degree, a gold in power lifting, silver in discus and bronze in javelin.
The champion, who started out as a long-distance runner and still competes in some of the country's prestigious marathons, says he could not participate in the long distance events at Porec because he tore a calf muscle during training for his maiden international competition.
"Basically, I am a long-distance runner but weeks before the event I tore my muscle," says Poonia, who has been part of 10th and 2nd Para, based in Kashmir and Siachen, and done duty for the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Congo for a year. After a six-month stint at Agra's 50 I-Para Brigade, he became a medical officer at the Rashtrapati Bhawan. While there, his dreams took wings. "The sports facilities at the Rashtrapati Bhawan gave me the opportunity to rekindle my desire to represent the country. It was a tough field in Porec where 47 countries and 2,743 athletes took part, some of them members of their national teams.”
His next target, “Win more medals at the World Games.”