THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: When other cyclists were looking for gold, silver or bronze, Rameshwori Devi Chabungbam from Manipur was looking for a century. Her 100th medal turned out to be gold, when she beat Deborah Harold in the women’s sprint event at the LNCPE Stadium on Thursday.
She started cycling in 1995, and has been counting her wealth in medals ever since. “There were just two National Cycling meets in which I haven’t won gold. That was because I was mourning over the death of someone,” she says.
She was very happy and soon set to counting her medals. “55 golds and 15 silvers in National meets. 5 golds and 2 silvers in International meets. I haven’t got many bronze medals,” she said. Her 99th medal was a bronze in 500m Time Trial.
However, Rameshwori Devi is seen as a hero of the past. Some in the spectator’s pavillion compared Deborah to a tiger, and spoke little about Rameshwori. Deborah pedalled relatively slow in the first of the three heats, as compared to her record-breaking performance in the qualifying rounds, and lost.
V N Singh, Assistant Secretary, Cycling Federation of India, said that 20-year-old Rameshwori has beat 19-year-old Deborah. He was referring to her two decade long career.
Still, many believed that the girl from Andaman and Nicobar was just playing it cool, and will return with a better show, In the second heats, Rameshwori cashed in on Deborah’s easygoing attitude. Though Deborah realised the folly, Rameshwori had already clinched her 100th medal.
After the race, she said, “Many, except those in the professional cycling circuits, did not think that I would win. I’m glad I could prove them wrong.”
She is 38 years now. A CID inspector and a mother of two, she says she will quit cycling at 40 years, after the 36th National Games to be held in Goa. “In Goa, the women from Manipur will make a comeback in cycling,” she says confidently.