Physically disabled, told by doctors he could never walk: World Champion Sangram Singh just can’t give up

  • Media Sports Keeda
  • Date May 14, 2016

The sheer size of India’s sporting landscape offers us unsung stories about sportspersons, who overcame grave financial troubles to become superstars. A man-made problem such as lack of resources can be fixed, but what if you were born with physical disability? How would you initiate a sporting journey, let alone chart one?

Every now and then, the audacity of hope often trumps natural problems. The journey of Oscar Pistorious to break the 11 second 100m mark without a leg is one such feat. However, you don’t have to go all the way to South Africa for knowledge about such unsung journeys.

Current Commonwealth professional World Champion Sangram Singh was paralysed due to severe arthiritis, till he can remember. A visit to his local ‘akhada’ in Haryana’s Madina village, saw him first experience the sport of wrestling.

He told Sportskeeda, “When I first saw wrestling i was on a wheelchair, I realised that those were the kind of feats I wanted to do once in my life. I asked the Coach whether he would let me my upper body with them. He saw me and told me that even if I was able-bodied I wouldn’t be able to do it. That was the situation which motivated me to get better.”

From not being able step outside his wheelchair to walking 30 km for training

At the age of eight, Doctors said that Sangram would never be able to walk again. However, after four years of continuous treatment, he was finally started walking. He said, “I first started by taking three steps at a time, I practiced this for a long time. Ayurvedic medicines strengthened my lower body enough that I could start running. Post that I started wrestling.”

After the local village akhada barred him from joining, Sangram walked 30 kilometres bare foot a day for practice. Born to a family of agricultural workers, spending Rs 100 on travel everyday was not a plausible option.

The first few competitive fights were hysterical to say the least. Sangram would collapse to the floor in the first 30 seconds, due to improper balance and strength. After sympathising with his situation, fellow villagers contributed milk and food to help Sangram eat healthy protein-rich food.

In 2001, he participated in his first ever State Championship, Sangram managed win a silver in the 120 kg Greco Roman division. Within eight years, the Mumbai based wrestler went from being physically handicapped to one of his state’s top grapplers.

After two years of mixed results, Sangram surprised strong Greco Roman field to win silver at the Senior Nationals. He was selected to represent Delhi, at the All India Police Games. Sangram said, “At that period of time the All India Police Games used to be the most prestigious event. I won bronze there defeating the number on Greco Roman wrestler in India.”

A major upset prompted an immediate international call-up, from the Indian team. Part of the 2005 national team attending the Senior World Championship in Budapest, Sangram made a call to his village wrestling coach. He said, “I called him and told him that never ever dissuade someone from doing anything, they might take it to heart. He had told me that a serious wrestler is one who represents India abroad. So, now I was representing India.”