You will not find anything unusual while travelling from Mansa to Dalelwala village, except a large pucca house at the entrance of the village. Old men busy playing cards will easily direct you to the house of Swarn Singh. "Swarn Singh sada munda hai, kishti chalaunda hai (he is our guy and he rows a boat)," this is how villagers know the rowing athlete.
His family is glued to DD National, the official broadcaster of the Asian games. Swaran's father Gurmukh Singh says his forefathers shifted to India from Gajju Matta in Lahore after partition. Youngest of two sons, Swarn was always interested in sports and mainly played volleyball. He joined the army in May 2008 as a nayeb subedar. Standing at 6 feet, 1 inch, Swarn was later sent to the Rowing Federation of India. His elder brother, who is employed with Punjab police and works in Patiala, claims Swarn's achievements have never been recognised by the state government.
"He has been representing India for the past three to four years but neither the state nor the central government has ever rewarded him for his contribution. Today morning also we heard him winning the bronze medal through news channels. None of the government officials have contacted us. He was ridiculed earlier by the former district sports officer, Darshan Singh Bhullar, when Swarn introduced himself as an athlete with the army. These incidents certainly can demotivate a person selflessly serving the country," said Lakhwinder Singh (26).
There was no pomp and show in the village after Swarn Singh became the news of the day. His father expressed deep regret that the sport played by his son has no takers in his native village. "Since their childhood, my eldest son wanted to join the police force and Swarn wanted to serve in the army. He was interested in volleyball but his interest and expertise grew in rowing, thanks to the army which trusted his talent. But no one in the village knows what rowing is and they just call it 'boating' without realising the fact that it is a sport as well."
The area lacks any sort of sport facility. The youth in the village allege the sarpanch had acquired some portion of land to develop a sports club but to no avail. The senior officials in the administration, on the basis of anonymity, acknowledged the fact that the athlete had certainly missed a well-deserved recognition.