The run-up to the 1998 Asian Games was quite eventful. I lost in the second round in the Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games following which my name was dropped from the Asian Games squad.
The news left me disheartened. I stopped training and took to drinking.
After my disappointing performance in the Commonwealth Games, I had stayed back at the national camp in Patiala and trained hard for the Asiad.
Fellow boxer Harpal Singh’s advice helped me. He said, “You have done a lot of hard work. There is no harm if you train for three more days.”
My name was cleared at the last minute. I was excited with the news even though I did not get the team kit which was given to the other members of the Indian contingent.
After my quarterfinal win, I got all the attention and received my kit. I beat world No.2 Wong Prages Sontaya of Thailand in the semifinals. It was the toughest bout of my life and I remember the Thai supporters throwing beer cans at me after the bout.
I was pumped up and beat the world No.3 Timur Tulyakov of Uzbekistan easily in the final. The Indian community in Bangkok was delighted with my win. One Punjabi gentleman gave me a gold chain with a locket of Guru Nanak. I gifted it to our coach G. S. Sandhu when he said his father was an ardent devotee of Guru Nanak.
My return to Imphal was memorable. It took me about 12 hours to reach home from the airport. I was showered with gifts and the state government named a road after me.
As told to Y. B. Sarangi
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