NEW DELHI: Year 2020 started off like a dream for gymnast Sandeep Pal. He clinched silver in the Still Rings artistic gymnastics event at the Khelo India Games in Guwahati. The 18-year-old subsequently qualified for the All-India University Games as well.
While preparing for the University Games as well as the senior nationals at the IG Indoor Stadium in New Delhi, tragedy struck.
On February 5, while practising the double back somersault routine, Sandeep fell awkwardly, landing on his neck. Suddenly he could not move. Fast forward seven months and the Uttar Pradesh athlete is completely wheelchair-bound.
He suffered C4-5 fracture-dislocation with quadriplegia and doctors at the Indian Spinal Injuries Centre (ISIC) in the national capital had to perform two procedures on the gymnast.
Unable to move, talk properly or control bladder motion, Sandeep is currently suffering back home in Prayagraj.
SAI had sanctioned around Rs 16-17 lakh for his treatment but after the pandemic struck, the hospital released him and he had to come back home.
With money drying up, his rehabilitation process has been hampered, forcing the young athlete to write a letter to Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju.
With the help of his elder brother, who put the call on the loudspeaker and helped translate, Sandeep explained the difficult situation he is facing. "I need two physiotherapists, one attender, and a host of different medicines. The cost comes up to Rs 60,000 per month. I'm currently able to avail services of only one physio.
My father is currently posted in Roorkee and it is becoming increasingly difficult to continue paying for all this. I had written to SAI DG three weeks back but got no response.
So I wrote a letter and posted it on social media tagging the sports minister, SAI DG and even the Prime Minister. After I came back home, the funds have dried up and I'm desperate for some financial assistance."
While there is no fixed timeline for recovery, Sandeep is hoping for the financial constraints to be eased soon.
A BA first-year student of the University of Haryana, he had won 23 medals in various age groups and was among the brightest young gymnasts coming up through the ranks.
"We were a very positive bunch and with the medals, I was accruing over the years, my family was hopeful of a bright future. But now I don't know what to say. Every day my family members are praying so that movement is restored in my body. I pray to god that I can represent my country in the future," he signed off.