Of Olympics, victories & friends
Get married first then, I will allow you to go to the Munich Olympics!
That’s what his father NS Chauhan told him in 1972. Vijay Singh agreed. But while he was getting married, and during the days leading up to it, big dreams were on his mind. He left for Munich two days after his marriage and finished 17th among 164 athletes in the decathlon. Only 102 actually completed that event.
“My wife Sheela was constantly on my mind for the four-and-a-half months I was in Munich,” recalls Chauhan, adding that, “It was an arranged marriage but from those very first days she was my support and great inspiration.” It was indeed, a moment of great pride not just for the couple, when Chauhan carried the Tri-colour.
His wife Sheela laughs, “It was quite absurd for me when Inki (that’s VS’ nickname) left for Munich Olympics just two days after the marriage ceremony. But, I was confident about his performance and prayed all the time for him.”
Before getting married, Vijay Singh Chauhan had a good showing in the 1970 Commonwealth Games at Scotland. But his biggest-moment of success came even after winning the gold medal at the 1973 Asian Athletics Championship at Manila. It was in 1974 at the Teheran Asian Games where the lanky athlete not only set a new Asian record in decathlon, but also celebrated as the ‘Iron Man of Asia’.
Here’s an interesting anecdote. During the training at Teheran, Chauhan’s shoes cracked and he had no money to buy another pair. But, he didn’t lose heart and trained barefoot for three days. His colleagues Suresh Babu and Kusum Chatwal, along with Chauhan, collected $21 by saving pocket money given to the Indian team and then, bought a new pair of shoes for Chauhan.
“It was a great time for me when the two didn’t care about their pocket money ($7 each) and handed it to me for new shoes,” recalls Chauhan. Those were the days. On his return to India, he was given a rousing welcome by his fans but the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) officials ignored him.
“The AFI officials left me alone at the airport after a horde of supporters gathered around me. I had no money in my pocket that time and once again it was Chatwal, who took me to her home and her mother paid the taxi bill,” remembers Chauhan, adding, “Those Rs 150 still remind me of my friends and I can’t forget their support ever.”
But, Chauhan’s fascinating show at the Teheran Asian Games fetched him Government of India’s prestigious Arjuna Award in 1974. “It was a proud moment for me when I found my name among the list of awardees,” recalls Chauhan, who did his best to transfer his sporting genes to his two sons and daughter.
“The trio did their best in sports, but preferred education and now are well settled in different organizations.”
Born and brought up in a family of sportspersons of Bah Tehsil in Agra, Chauhan, who completes 60 years in January, 2009 next, has no grudges. Yet, at the same time, he wants to take voluntary retirement from the Uttar Pradesh Sports Directorate, where he is posted at the joint director nowadays.
“Now, the time has come when I should spend my time with my family and my books on sports, because day-to-day exercise now in the Sports Directorate doesn’t me any more,” the says 57-year-old Chauhan who has now been chosen for the State Government’s prestigious Laxman Award in the Veterans Category a few days back.
After wrestling and playing volleyball in his village as a child, Chauhan tasted his first success at the All-India Schools Athletics’ Championship at Patna where he stood third. Thereafter, he claimed gold in the javelin in Junior Category at the All-India Open meet at Chandigarh in 1965. Diploma holder of NIS and BPEd, Chauhan has so far written over two-dozen books on sports, physical education and yoga, and some of his books are being considered as the best ones in sports.
“Writing is my passion and I will continue even after taking pre-mature retirement from the Sports Directorate,” says Chauhan, who had secured 73.5 per cent and a gold medal during his training at the NIS.
For the younger generation of athletics, Chauhan has a few important things to say. “It’s a world of professionalism in sports now, but still it requires devotion and dedication. The new generation should make more sincere efforts and also on the scientific advancement of the game to achieve success in their lives,” concludes Chauhan.