Budding athletes strive to blossom under watchful eyes of ‘Black Rose’

A few months ago while sitting on the stairs of the KD Singh ‘Babu’ stadium, Rajveer Yadav was thinking about his life and what direction it should take. The time thus spent was not in vain. Rajveer found his purpose when he saw a group of young athletes running along with Asian Games bronze medallist long-distance runner Gulab Chand together for hours.

Like any other youngster in India, Rajveer, who belongs to a village in Barabanki, first thought of playing cricket. But a hefty coaching fee and other expenses forced him to give up the idea. Long distance running doesn’t require any gear, except shoes. But it requires a lot of energy and stamina, which Rajveer feels he has in abundance.

“Athletics is a discipline for poor people as it requires only courage, strength and sincere effort in winning medals. You lose nothing. That’s why more and more athletes come from villages,” says Gulab Chand, who also bagged a silver medal in 10,000 metres at the Asian Championship at Jakarta in 2000.

“I know what youth like Rajveer feel? I have seen those days too, and that’s why I am trying to tap their hunger for success to get them to win medals for India in future. I have even requested the authorities concerned not to promote me, otherwise I would have to leave the state capital and go somewhere else,” says Chand, who is chief ticket collector at North Eastern Railway here.

“Even on Sundays, I don’t miss my three-hour training schedule with these boys and girls. I know the importance of practising every day. Even now at the age of 45, I don’t hesitate in running with these athletes. I find it the best morning recreation for me,” he says.

Chand, who hails from Sheo village almost 10 km from Varanasi Railway station, resembles Kenyan marathon great Wilson Kipsang. “In fact, I am called ‘Black Rose’ by my fans and friends. I enjoy this love and affection,” says Chand, who begins his day at 5.30am and continues practising till 8.30am every day.

“Even in my time, I used to run 10,000 metres under the scorching sun,” he says.

“I am not training these boys and girls for money. I want them to excel and win medals for India in future. Even though I won a bronze medal at Bangkok Asian Games, I felt proud when the Indian tri-colour went up during the medal ceremony. That feeling was priceless and even today I don’t think about money.”

“If any of these athletes win medals for India in future at Asian Games or Olympics that would be the real payment for my efforts with them as I see a Gulab Chand in them.”

Chand, who won gold medals at nationals in 5000m and 1500m in 2003, also bagged a silver medal in the 5000m event at the Asian Championship in 1998, before bagging bronze in the 10,000m at Fukuoka’s Asian Championship in the same year. He stood fifth in 1500m and sixth in 5000m at his last Asian Championship at Manila in 2003.

“I always enjoyed running. Defeating athletes from China, Hong Kong and other countries at the Asian Championships gave me a kick,” he says.

Chand grew up watching a huge gathering of young runners at his village every morning. While running with them, he never thought of winning a medal. “I won my first gold medal at the school nationals in 1989 at Cuttack. It was only then that I realised the importance of running. From there itself, I was picked up by JS Bhatia Sir and my life changed,” he says.

Chand, however, expresses disappointment at missing an Olympic berth by a few seconds. “I knew that I could finish among top 10 at Olympics, but I missed it at the qualifying round by a few seconds. That was really disappointing,” he said.

Other than coaching long distance runners, Chand has been training kids not to use drugs to enhance their strength. He advises them to consume ‘natural things’ to raise their stamina. “I use to cook my own ‘palak’ and mutton soup as an athlete requires a high haemoglobin level.”

Chand, who doesn’t believe in reading about sport too much, say he gathers feedback from Indian coaches to keep himself abreast of any changes in the technique or planning. “I believe in practical knowledge and my seniors and friends in the national camps keep updating my knowledge, which I apply on my trainees here,” he says.

First Published:
May 21, 2019 16:19 IST

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