Rambalak Singh, who won a silver at the 1970 Asian Games, supervises work at the swimming cradle for underprivileged children. Picture by Bhola Prasad
A former international-level swimmer from the steel city has sold his flat to set up an academy for underprivileged children.
The swimming cradle, which is coming up along NH-33, about 12km from Jamshedpur, is a dream project of Rambalak Singh, who won a water polo silver at the 1970 Asian Games in Bangkok.
Bank loan hassles and delays in commissioning the academy compelled 68-year-old Singh to sell his flat at Bhagalpur in Bihar.
“I sold my flat for Rs 30 lakh to start construction of the academy. Prior to that, I ran from pillar to post to procure a loan, but the project kept getting delayed. So, I decided to start construction and seek loans simultaneously. To kick off work, I sold me flat and started construction of the boundary wall with the money. This academy is my dream,” said the former national swimming champion, who now stays at Govindpur.
Singh revealed that the proposed academy, which is being built on a seven-bigha plot, would boast a multigym, sauna, a restaurant and volleyball and basketball courts. “A 50-bed hostel will also come up later. I expect training to start in three-four months,” Singh told The Telegraph.
The veteran swimmer added his loan application had finally been approved.
“Senior officers of the bank visited the site and finally approved a loan of Rs 1 crore. But the project would not have kicked off had I not sold my flat then. There was no choice,” said the former Tata Steel employee, adding that the proposed cradle was estimated to cost Rs 1.5 crore.
Currently, the construction of the 25mx25m swimming pool and changing rooms for boys and girls are in full swing.
“There is no dearth of talent in Jharkhand. There are good swimmers in villages and I am shortly going to tap young talent and train them in my academy. I’ll start mentoring boys and girls in the 1-5 age group,” said Singh, who is credited with training ace swimmers Bula Chowdhury and Khajan Singh.
Clad in a modest kurta-pyjama, Singh said grooming talent from a young age could yield great results later.
“I am also building a small pool for the little ones. They will gradually move to the bigger one. A team of experienced mentors would be recruited in due course. National championships at the academy will give adequate exposure to the trainees,” said Singh, who is chairman of Jharkhand Swimming Association.
Apart from the Bangkok Asiad, Singh also donned national jersey at the 1974 (Tehran) and 1982 (New Delhi) Asian Games.
His son Deepak is also an international swimmer and presently a deputy commandant with the CRPF.