Deepak Maharjan was mere 7-year old when Chitra Bahadur Gurung won Nepal a bronze in the 1990 Asian Games, incidentally in Chinese city of Beijing. So it’s highly unlikely that he might have been inspired by that event. And after that, we could never see the podium finish at the Asian level, as far as the pugilists are concerned.
Incidentally, it had to be China again, where the medal drought finally ended for the sport. And incidentally, it had to be another humble player who finished at the podium. In sports, it is said, you don’t win silver, forget bronze. You only win gold.
But then, we are celebrating a third place finish. And why not, if it was not for Deepak Maharjan, our bag would remain empty. The media could have blamed it on the officials; after all they were the ones who had almost put the entire contingent’s trip in jeopardy. After all, they were the ones who went to Guangzhou with the players, and were spotted in cities like Hong Kong and Macau, during the Games itself, while the players would hardly find a couple of hands clapping for them.
So what if it was only a bronze that he won. So what if he could only score one point against the 6-footer Indian boxer. Deepak Maharjan did not create magic, or set the ring on fire, and perhaps it was not even expected of him. For he was not the one who would give juicy soundbites to camera or make promises even before setting his foot in the ring. Before heading to China, he did not tell you he was going to break any record or a neck. What he did tell us was that he’s going to try his best. What we conveniently forgot was he had won a gold in South Asian Games, last time around.
And now, he is a celebrated name. He even has a page on the Wikipedia now. And perhaps, he is not even aware of it. For he is a simpleton, a man who’s likely to remain unnoticed unless you want to interview him. And there are chances you might regret interviewing him, because his lines are terse and hardly likely to incite anyone. But if you listen to him carefully, you might be feel differently.
When everyone who knows a bit of sports in the country, including media, was busy criticizing the sport officials for spoiling the environment even before the Asian Games, he would not even speak about it.
Upon his return he said, “Our job is to prepare well, and not concentrate on anything that happens outside.” But it must be tough, not reacting to what is happening around you. He tells you, “That hampers preparation.”
Terse, but to the point… Ask him how he feels after grabbing bronze at the Asian Games, and he would grope for words, often mumbling and trying to thank the entire family, friends, fans and god knows who not. But you would rate him for what he does in the ring, and not the speech he would deliver after receiving the medal. Doing both well would be great, we’d have a showman. But here, we are in dire need of flag bearers rather than stars.
Post Asiad, I could not help but notice 3 things.
Deepak came back for a hero’s welcome, with his villagers thronging the airport just before midnight.
So did the other officials, one of whom was manhandled, by those who call themselves players.
A senior official from Sports Council – who shall here remain nameless and for his lack of understanding should remain jobless – told me, “Forget my talks on TV. We cannot even pay proper salaries, forget big plans for future.”
Makes you wonder: Are we learning our lessons?
(The article originally appeared in The Kathmandu Post, 4th December, 2010, in a weekly column of Yours Truly)