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Cycle in coma, career in question for pedal star

- Minor accident puts state’s sole international Lakhan Hansda’s sporting future in major jeopardy before Delhi tie

Lakhan Hansda (24) was accidentally born in the wrong state.

This unassuming tribal youth, cycling on a 16km road near his village Damodih maintained by the Uranium Corporation of India Limited, was hit by a biker coming from the opposite side on December 4. He and his cycle crashed on the ground under the impact.

Now, comes the shocker. Lakhan, Jharkhand’s lone international cyclist, was practising for the 65th Senior National Track Cycling Championship in New Delhi between December 24 and 28.

He had nowhere to practise except the Narwapahar-Jaduguda stretch, one of the rare smooth roads in the hinterland.

The rear wheel of Lakhan’s racing cycle was completely damaged. Lakhan fared better. His hip was hurt but he didn’t need hospitalisation.

In any other state, the sports department would have welcomed him inside Sidho Kanhu velodrome, Ranchi. Here, the state would rather let the Rs 13-crore facility — built with public money for the 34th National Games — get slimy, waterlogged and bushy than allow cyclists to pedal.

The vicious cycle of state apathy, Jharkhand Cycling Association’s helplessness and his own penury has put a spanner in his ambition in more ways than one.

Now, obviously, neither Lakhan nor his association knows if he can participate in the New Delhi meet, less than three weeks away.

Jharkhand Cycling Association (JCA) secretary Satbir Singh Sahota, based in Jamshedpur, rushed to meet Lakhan at Damodih in Potka. “He (Lakhan) is not well. We hope he recovers before the track nationals,” Sahota told The Telegraph.

Even if he does, his cycle won’t.

To buy the rear wheel of a racing cycle, Lakhan will have to spend Rs 22,000. The matriculate who farms paddy for a living hasn’t seen that kind of money in a long time.

His Rs 1.5 lakh cash award from the Games was spent in freeing his ancestral 1.5 acre from mortgage and repairing his cycle. Incidentally, Lakhan had mortgaged his land to buy an imported cycle in 2005.

“Ab to cycle bhi chali gayi. Kya karoo samaj mein nahin aata. Ghar mein utna paisa bhi nahin hai (Now, even the cycle has gone. Don’t know what to do. We don’t have money),” Lakhan told The Telegraph.

He was 17 when he convinced his father to mortgage land for a cycle. A teen prodigy, Lakhan had claimed gold in 80km road mass start in Pune nationals in 2004 was a part of Team India in the 2005 Asian Cycling Championship, Ludhiana. He genuinely expected his pedal prowess to conquer poverty.

Medals, championships abroad, travel, a job under the sports quota. Lakhan knew his limbs were strong enough for his dreams.

Years of rude reality check followed. The state didn’t care for cyclists or the association. The association had neither muscle nor money. The state locked up infrastructure meant for him and his colleagues — cycles and track — out of bounds and wanted surety. Jobs were a joke.

Lakhan grew up.

Though he couldn’t give up cycling, his first love, he knew he had to eat. Now, he would think twice about mortgaging the land that feeds him.

Sahota said Lakhan was a big medal hope for the track nationals. “We managed to borrow four track cycles for the Delhi event. Lakhan’s accident upset the whole equation. I am concerned about his cycling future. The poor boy has no money nor does our association,” he added.