V for victory: Partha Mondal trains on the pommel horse after his triumph. (Bishwarup Datta)
Gymnast Partha Mondal struck more than gold at the 34th National Games last Sunday, he raised the gold standard for sportspersons fighting injury and apathy.
Partha’s podium finish in the pommel horse event was not only a stunning comeback within four-and-a-half months of surgery — doctors had said he would need nine months to compete — but also a fightback against those who had left him to fend for himself after his Commonwealth Games injury.
“What hurt more than the injury I had suffered was how I was ignored. I was determined to get back on my feet before the National Games despite my doctor and physiotherapist saying it would be nine months before I could compete,” recounted Partha, the son of a vegetable vendor from Joynagar in South 24-Parganas.
Metro had reported 23-year-old Partha’s plight on November 1 last year. While he was in hospital, nobody from the Bengal Gymnastics Association, the Bengal Olympic Association or the state sports department gave him a call, leave alone visit him.
“It’s been a lonely journey to recovery. But I was determined to stand up and be counted,” Partha said.
Surgeon Vikash Kapoor, who replaced Partha’s anterior cruciate ligament with a graft of his hamstring muscle, attributed his super-fast recovery more to motivation than medicines.
“He was a medal prospect at the Commonwealth Games but ended up tearing a ligament on the very first day. The pain of not being able to compete was his motivation. Partha’s recovery also proves that athletes and players don’t necessarily need to go out of the state for the best treatment.”
Partha did have to go out of his home state — not for treatment but to earn a ticket to the National Games. His pommel horse gold has added to host Jharkhand’s tally rather than Bengal’s, though nothing would give Partha more pleasure than to represent his home state again.
Back in Calcutta to resume training, Partha said: “I need more time to get back to where I was. I was in top form for Delhi after attending training camps for 18 months, but all the hard work went waste with that injury.”
In the first couple of weeks after surgery, Partha was unable to work with his physio for more than an hour a day. By the time the National Games started, he had increased his workout to four hours.
“Partha used to train for eight hours a day. But now his right leg hurts so much that he cannot do that. It’s his mental strength that keeps him going,” said coach Nemai Kanji, the only person apart from his parents whom Partha had consulted on competing in the National Games.
Physio Rathin Mukherjee, who would advise him to “take it easy”, is proud his ward has proved him wrong. “Partha is a role model,” he said.
Training at the SAI complex in Salt Lake, Partha reminded Metro of the exact time he took to stage his stunning comeback. “Four months and six days,” he smiled.