The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Marathon man in race against disease
- Double Olympian under ojha’s care after doctors advise return home

Jamshedpur, May 23: Jharkhand’s lone double Olympian who set the tracks on fire barefoot is battling for his life, his last hopes pinned on a witchdoctor.

A severe bout of jaundice and Hepatitis B has forced Shivnath Singh to remain bedridden in pain.

Singh, who represented the country in the Montreal and Moscow Olympics marathon, has just returned from the Christian Medical College in Vellore. Doctors there told his family that his condition was serious and it would be better if he was taken home. He is now undergoing treatment from an ojha at Manoharpur.

“He is in great pain. His condition is very serious,” said Singh’s wife Sita Devi.

She added that her husband, an Arjuna award winner, underwent treatment for jaundice at the Tata Main Hospital four years ago. He remained in the hospital for three months. “After getting released from the hospital, he complained of pain in his abdomen,” she said.

Singh, who was then an employee of Tata Steel, resumed duty but complained of recurring abdomen pain. Eventually, he called it a day under the employee separation scheme.

“We never imagined that the pain in his abdomen would take such a serious dimension. Doctors at the Vellore hospital have said that he is suffering from jaundice,” Sita Devi added.

Singh, a former armyman who joined Tata Steel in the seventies, finished 11th in the Montreal Olympics in 1976 and fifth in the Moscow Olympics in 1982. He was the best marathon runner of the country.

After claiming two silvers in the first Asian athletic meet in Manila in 1973, Singh never looked back.

The 55-year-old athlete was adjudged best sportsman of the country in 1974 and received the Arjuna Award the same year.

Singh won gold and a silver in the seventh Asian Games in Tehran in 1974 and grabbed two silvers in the Asian athletic meet in Korea the following year.

The then President, Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy, honoured him with the Vishesh Seva Medal the same year for his outstanding performance at international meets. He is the only athlete from Jharkhand and Bihar to have won this honour.

Singh represented the country in the Canada Commonwealth Games in 1978 and stood fourth in the 1978 Asian Games. He held a record in marathon, clocking 2 hours, 11 minutes and 59 seconds in an athletic meet in Jalandhar in 1978. The 10,000-metre record (28 minutes, 58 seconds) also stands in his name.

The 1982 Delhi Asian Games was his swansong. He stood fourth.

Sunita, Singh’s daughter, said her father had won several laurels for the country but no one had visited him or enquired about his health. The Bihar government, under the then chief minister Jagannath Mishra, had promised to donate a five-acre plot in Patna to my father. “But so far, nothing has materialsed,” she said.

“We would like to thank the central government for allotting a petrol pump in the name of my father. My cousin is looking after the petrol outlet in Deogarh,” Sunita said.

She said that had her father accepted the Chinese government’s offer to become a citizen of that country, he wouldn’t have seen such painful days. “Things are well when one is in the limelight. Once you fade out, you have no status,” she added.

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