Once in four years, comes a time when patriotism moves its theatre to the arena of sport, where every nation sits upright, engaged emotionally, cheering their representative warriors. The stakes are high, and pride of a nation could hang on the fraction of a second or a barely visible jerk.
And therefore, it’s inevitable that those heroes who establish their mettle on this sport’s greatest circuit earn their place in the hearts of their homes’ millions. But there are few who take their passion to a higher level and transform the sport to a drama where you are left gaping, forgetting the existing barriers of place and pride transforming these heroes to legends.
This Olympics, a legend established himself, braving a burdensome history and a fresh brigade of youthful limbs in his familiar aquatic terrain, proving the old adage right, ‘time and tide wait for none!’ He missed most yet strove on.
Along his masterly-strokes to glory, he proved another reality of life we often fail to oblige. That, ‘In any Individual’s pursuit, the only destination we reach, is the one we choose to settle with!’
It is unarguably this steely resolve to prove to themselves, rather than the critics, that drives champions who seem to have watched more springs than the competing rest. A will that helps them fight the barren winter with a hope that spring is not far behind.
Therefore at this juncture; as we celebrate the sheer magnitude of this monument of Micheal Phelps, who has erased a 48-year old record, let me recall in tribute the Indian legend we forget. He might not have the number of medals as these giants boast of, but he’s captured as many hearts, if not more. Although there is one common factor in all of them, they stand atop a pedestal, far from the madding crowd.
I talk of ‘The wizard’; the glowing bright moon in the star studded sport of Hockey, our very own Dhyan Chand. It might seem like he’s nowhere in terms of the numbers; a mere 3 Olympic golds, as against the vast collection of Phelps’ 19. But beneath the figures, lies an enigmatic tale untold that could be missed in our adoration for volume.
Born into a humble family, unlike most celebrated sportsmen, his childhood was seldom spent in company of a hockey stick. And therefore when he didn’t choose his destiny, destiny chose him in the form of the Indian army. Soon the hidden talent burst to life in a New Zealand tour where he helped secure a tour sheet of 18-2-1 – the win-draw-loss ratio.
In the first Olympics at Amsterdam 1928, he’d establish his credentials for the world to sit up and take notice of the wizard as he found the net on 14 occasions in 5 games, leading the remaining scorers by a large margin. A stirring performance that earned him the reputation of a magician with the hockey wand.
Probably it wasn’t just him, but the blood that ran in their family’s veins. For in 1938, he’d once again return to Los Angeles to scoop his deserving gold, with an illustrious younger sibling for company, who combined and spearheaded a ruthless assault in subtle play. Together they scored 25 out of the 35 goals scored by India that included a masterly 24-1 against the host nation USA in the final.
Fittingly, the master craftsman had reserved his best for finale. Like the Dark Knight, he rose in his ultimate battle, the third Olympics at Berlin, 1936, in a different avatar, as the captain of the Indian Olympics Hockey team. And he dished out enough memories for the world to recollect for a century to come. He helped India defend its crown, securing a hat-trick of titles, in the process scoring 13 goals in 5 encounters
Overall he’d netted a phenomenal 33 goals in 12 matches of his Olympic career.
Thereafter the World Wars arrived that robbed us of more than we could ever comprehend.
In his forties, in what was his final tournament abroad in British East Africa, he emphatically scored 61 goals in 22 matches proving his mastery of age. But he chose to never return to haunt the Olympic arena. However, his legacy inspired generations that followed that kept alive the honor of Hockey in India with 5 more gold medals to their collection
Unarguably, this ‘moon’ is a legend that continues to inspire. An idol for every player of the sport. He was the main reason of the birth of self confidence in our home and the prime reason for the world’s admiration and respect of our capabilities. And he remained an adorable humble gentleman always with an aura of charm.
His attitude is best summed up in his classic Olympic finale when he returned after the break with an injury, relinquishing his spiked shoes to play in bare feet to gain more speed, taming the aggressive Germans, calming his tensed team-mates with a simple statement, ‘Lets show them how to play!’