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Minister gets wheels rolling for cyclist duo

Finally, it looks like the wheels have turned.

Sports minister Geetashree Oraon has come to the rescue of two star cyclists of the state who had been for years crying hoarse for proper gear to compete in tournaments.

Thanks to the minister’s intervention this week, Lakhan Hansda and Ram Kumar Bhatt have received a pair of brand-new wheels.

“Lakhan and I met the minister in Ranchi earlier this week,” Ram told The Telegraph over phone on Friday. “We told her our problems threadbare. We said we couldn’t practise as the worn-out wheels of our racing cycles had given up. We told her we don’t have stamina as we couldn’t afford food supplements,” he said.

The sports department is likely to release Rs 25,000 from the welfare fund for the duo for their dietary needs and allow them to practise inside the Ranchi velodrome.

If these happen, Lakhan and Ram, who have day jobs as a paddy farmer in Damodih, East Singhbhum, and a security guard in Jamadoba, respectively, stand a fighting chance at the 35th National Games to be held next year in Kerala.

The wheels given to Lakhan and Ram did not cost the state a penny. They are part of the spares that the state government had procured for the 34th National Games hosted by Jharkhand in 2011 and had been gathering dust since.

Thanking Oraon profusely, 27-year-old Ram said such a positive attitude of the sports department would push them to work hard and win medals for the state.

“I have replaced my old wheels with new ones and resumed practice. It’s a huge relief,” the talented cyclist said.

Lakhan, a year younger than Ram, said he was happy with the wheels but worried about his diet.

“It’s good I got the wheels. But I need a proper diet to sustain competitive cycling. I don’t have a regular income and cannot afford the diet required. I need a government job as I am the lone international cyclist from the state,” he said, adding he had applied for cash to Uranium Corporation of India Limited for food while training at the state camp in Ranchi this May-June.

Sports director Dadan Choubey said the wheels had been provided but Lakhan and Ram could use them only during practice sessions or while competing in national meets. On funds for diet, he said they needed to submit a written application.

He added that he had convened a meeting with state sports associations on August 1 to discuss preparations and requirements for the upcoming National Games. “We are ready to give infrastructure, including the velodrome, to sports bodies,” he added.

Will Ram and Lakhan get any more state benefits?

Tell ttkhand@abpmail.com