Some members of the state squad who participated in the road national championship in Bihar
Forget the score. Instead, count the scars.
Jharkhand cyclists are back home with a huge haul of bruises, cuts and sprains from the 17th Road National Cycling Championship, which concluded in Muzaffarpur on October 20.
The 15-member state squad could not win one medal. All thanks to their rickety racing cycles, bad or missing spares. And no small thanks to the fact that Jharkhand prefers to lock up its gear, glibly demanding hefty caution deposits to make racing cycles out of bounds for its own impoverished sportspersons.
It was a tourney with a difference for the state’s sole international cyclist Lakhan Hansda (24), who had won team bronze at the National Games in 2011.
As the tube of his borrowed cycle punctured midway during the 120km mass start, he suffered cuts on his forearm, legs and sprained his back. Instead of racing to the finishing line, he went to a local dispensary.
“I couldn’t walk after the tube punctured and I fell on the road. I was carried to the dispensary like a child. I feel very bad and let down,” Lakhan, who had borrowed a cycle from Seraikela cyclist Biswajeet Mahto, told The Telegraph.
The East Singhbhum resident — Lakhan tills his paddy field in Damodih village to eke out a living — need not be too embarrassed. His team mates Dalip Mahto, Fulmani Kumari and Gulanhi Banda also sustained injuries while pedalling on old racing cycles.
Manoharpur’s Dalip suffered bruises on both knees. Gulanhi, also from Manoharpur, boasted cuts on her face, hands and legs. Fulmani from Dhanbad also wore her hard-earned badges of bruises.
Dalip, who suffered Lakhan’s fate in the 63km team time trial, said he had counted on Lady Luck. “I went to Muzaffarpur with tattered tyres and tubes and thought Lady Luck would see me through. Maybe her mood was off,” said the 28-year-old cyclist.
Debutante Gulanhi, all of 16, fell down while competing in the junior mass start. “I think Gulanhi was nervous. First big race, very old cycle... it’s not a winning combination,” said team captain Anita Kumari from Dhanbad.
Anita, a national medallist, said the experience taught her a lesson.
“It’s better to skip national competitions rather than competing with poor gear. Equipment worth lakhs has been dumped in Ranchi since 2010. And look at us. This is earning Jharkhand a bad name. Some corrective steps must be taken to keep cycling alive,” she said.
Jharkhand Cycling Association (JCA) secretary Satbir Singh Sahota, himself a former international cyclist, said they had all learnt a lesson.
“We may skip the upcoming track nationals in New Delhi from December 5 to 9. Our cyclists cannot risk further injury. The JCA knows the significance of the nationals in Delhi, which are the open trials to select the Indian team for Asian Cycling Championship in March 2013, also to be hosted in the national capital,” he added.
“Our cyclists competed in Muzaffarpur with prayers on their lips,” he said.
The lesson that real life isn’t a scripted Lagaan or a Chak De India is well and truly learnt. Will the sports department now wake up?