Ludhiana 's veteran athletes motivate the young to take to sports

Ludhiana, Mar 10 : They are in their 60s and 70s and are deeply involved in persuading the young to become sportspersons. They at various rural games giving a run for their money to their young counterparts.

Prominent among them is Gurnam Singh, who took to performing stunts on the cycle ten years ago, when his granddaughter challenged him to lift a bicycle by his teeth.

Without batting an eye-lid, 72-year-old Gurnam did it and has not looked back since.

Today, he is the pride of rural sports festivals in Punjab. His physical fitness makes him the envy of all and youngsters who come to him to get tips on being healthy.

"I want to tell the young generation that health is a precious thing. If you are not healthy, you can achieve nothing. You may be having wealth, vehicles and factories, but all is insignificant. If you have good health, everything is valuable. Your good health adds to your personality," said Gurnam.

There are many like Gurnam, who keep the aura alive even though they are old.

Nihal Singh, Sardar Chand and Kesar Singh are the other veteran athletes busy warming up in the grounds.

To win the prize money is not their ultimate goal, as they live with passion and zeal to motivate the young blood to take to sports. They themselves make and break their records.

Nihal, a 65-year-old athlete said, "I wake up early in the morning to practice. I participate in all rural competitions, wherever they are held. The young also get inspiration from us to participate in sports."

"I remained first in Punjab, and then went on to win the Bronze medal in the national and Asian competitions. Recently, at the rural games in Mandi Gobindgarh (Punjab) I won two gold medals," said Sardar Chand, a 64-year-old athlete.

In 1991 in Finland, Joginder Singh of Punjab competed in the 95-plus category and set a world record by clearing a distance of 4.51 meters in the long jump.

The wrinkled faces and scarred skin are no hurdles as their spirits are high and every time they attempt to break their own records.

"If these veterans are maintaining their health and doing wonders in sports, I feel we should be inspired by them. We should keep ourselves fit and healthy. By doing so, we can qualify for the Olympics," said Vikramjeet Singh, a sportsman.

Raj Kumar, another sportsman added, "We feel great seeing the old men participating in the races. We, too, aspire to do something and be healthy. We would like to practice and participate in the competitions."

Today in almost 7000 villages of Punjab, rural sports contests are being held at one time or the other. The rural folk, who organize them, extend all hospitality to the competitors.

It is a tradition that binds the young and the old, the rich and the poor, men and women.

Story first published: Monday, March 10, 2008, 15:19 [IST]
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