HYDERABAD: Like wounded soldiers they did not give in easily. Instead, they went through various processes of healing, physio therapy, rehabilitation and motivational sessions, enduring excruciating pain. Undeterred by the injuries they came with steely determination and sheer dedication. Gagan Narang, Pullela Gopichand and Sania Mirza are champions in their own right.
For 32-year-old shooter Gagan Narang, who won four golds in the 2010 Commonwealth Games, it has been a saga of gritty comebacks. In the last few years, the ace shooter has laid low because of neck and knee injuries.
But the 10-metre air-rifle London bronze medalist has battled his way back. Even as he was struggling to find his feet back in his favourite 10 metre air-rifle event, Narang always kept his dream alive and today he is working hard in 50 m prone event.
Niranjan Reddy, his first coach, feels Narang is a true fighter. “He never loses hope. In shooting, knee injuries are common. It needs a lot of fitness and Narang has always fought these adversities. Today, he has shown he is a true champion, indeed with his show at the World Cup.’’
Former Indian badminton player, Gopichand says, injuries are part and parcel of sportsperson’s career. Though some are lucky to get away with minor niggles, there are a few who call it a day when they feel it is futile to continue with big injuries. Gopichand is one player who faced setbacks in life, not once but thrice before winning the All England Championship in 2001. It was in the year1994 during National Games at Pune that the injury nearly crippled him. While playing the men’s doubles final with Vijayaraghavan, he collided with his partner and in the nasty fall, he twisted his left knee. “I had a horrible fall on the court.
I heard a creaking sound but I didn’t realise the gravity of the injury. I could not get up and I was taken in a stretcher. After that, it was hell. The pain was intolerable. It took a few months to know the severity of the injury,” recalls Gopichand.
Finish was written all over his career. But Gopichand was determined to revive his career come what may. Thanks to his parents Subash Chandra and Subbaravamma, his hopes were high. Gopichand met Dr Rajagopal in New Delhi. The orthopedic surgeon made Gopichand’s dreams come true with a successful surgery. Recalls his mother, “He could not walk with crutches also. It took months to put the foot on the ground before he made his comeback to the court.” With coach Syed Mohammad Arif giving a helping hand, Gopichand began his fairy tale comeback.
“You feel very frustrated. But then I realised it can happen to anyone. It is a big challenge. I was inspired by a few sportspersons like Dutch soccer player Marco van Basten, who also suffered some career-threatening injuries. Of course, the comeback after injuries is always very difficult. It needs a lot of patience, hard work, discipline and determination. In fact, I had two more injuries in 1996 and 1998 but after the first, I never took the next two lightly,” says the Padma Bhushan awardee.
Injuries are very frustrating, says Imran Mirza, Sania’s father. From knee to wrist, she too has witnessed severe injuries that took a toll on her body.
There were knee injuries in 2007 and 2011 that needed surgeries and in 2008, her wrist injury put her out of action for nearly six months. “Of all the three, the wrist injury was very bad. It was the time when she was just married to Shoaib Mallik, who was very supportive. It was very frustrating, but Sania was always mentally strong. I admire Gopichand the way he fought back,” he adds.