My first Asian Games was in 1982 in New Delhi and the last in 1998 at Bangkok. I remember my races at all those five Games, but, of course, it is the 1986 edition that gave me the greatest joy.
Of the five gold medals India won in the Games in Seoul, four were mine. When the athletics events began, India was placed 14th on the medals table, but my golds — in the 200m, 400, 400 hurdles and 4x400 relay — took the country to the fifth position. Rajiv Gandhi, who was the Prime Minister at the time, asked the then Sports Minister, Mrs. Margaret Alva, why India had to send so many athletes for international events if only one was capable of winning medals.
I had also won the silver in the 100m at Seoul and was thrilled to win five medals from an event as prestigious as the Asian Games.
Four years earlier, in my first Asian Games, in New Delhi, I had won the silver the 100m and the 200m. That was after I was hospitalised for a month and a half owing to malaria.
In my third Asian Games at Beijing in 1990, I won three silver medals — in the 400m and the two relays. Then, in 1994 at Hiroshima, I won what would be my last Asian Games medal — silver in the 4x400m relay.
It was disappointing that I could not do well at the 1998 Games at Bangkok. But for politics, I should have been a part of the 4x400m relay team, which won the silver. I believe I could have brought the gold to that squad.
(as told to P. K. Ajith Kumar)
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