Winning medals and making their country proud is something every athlete wishes to do once in their career and to do so, a sportsperson has to give his all to be the best on his field.
Lakha Singh, a bronze medalist in 1994 in the 81kg category in the 1994 Hiroshima Asiad, did the same and made his countrymen proud. However, fortunes have completely turned around for the boxer, who now drives a taxi for a living.
A five-time national champion, Singh also won a bronze medal in the 1994 Asian Boxing Championship in Tehran and a silver medal in the same championship in Tashkent in 1995. Singh was India’s biggest hope going into the 1996 Atlanta Olympics but couldn’t repeat his Asian performances and finished at 17th position in the 91Kg category.
Ex-army men, Singh now earns Rs 8000 per month and is struggling to make ends meet. The 52 year old, spoke to Times of India and said,
“I had written several letters to the (now-defunct) Indian Amateur Boxing Federation (IABF) as well as the Punjab government about my condition, but never got a response. Even the taxi that I drive is not mine. Koi mere pakh di gal nai sunna chaunda (No one wants to listen to my side of the story),”
Singh had joined the Indian Army as a jawaan at the age of 19 in 1984 during the anti-Sikh riots.
However, his life completely turned around in two years after the 1996 Olympics. He and another boxer, Debendra Thapa, were scheduled to take part in the World Military Boxing Championship in 1998 but the pair slipped out of the Texas airport and vanished. They were declared absconders by the Army.
After struggling for eight years in the US, where he lived without a visa, Singh finally collected enough money to repurchase a ticket home and returned to his native village Halwara in Ludhiana with the help of Indian Embassy.
Singh now seeks help from the government and the army,
“I won numerous medals at the national- and international level. But I was tricked and taken away at the Texas Airport during a championship by someone and was declared absconder by the Army. I request for help from the Government and the Army. It was a little and unintentional fault,”
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