Being a medical officer in The Presidents Bodyguards team in itself is not something every one can aspire to. For Major Surendra Poonia,though,it is only one of the several achievements he can boast of.
A qualified paratrooper who volunteered for the Indian Special Forces,Poonia has now added three podium finishes to his success list in separate events earned at the 31st World Medical and Health Games. Poonia won a gold,silver and bronze each,in powerlifting,discus throw and javelin respectively.
But it was not success without its share of obstacles. The lone Indian representation in a meet that featured more than 2500 athletes from 47 countries,Poonia didnt even have the necessary uniform to officially represent the country. Countries like Germany,meanwhile,had a contingent of over 200 members.
Following his fathers dream of becoming a doctor,Poonia passed out of the Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC) to join the Presidential staff. In fact,it was his room mate from AFMC days who informed him about the competition three months before and helped him apply.
Being told that he needed a country jersey,he managed with a cricket T-shirt that said India on the back. Once Poonia entered the venue in Croatia,the European organisers thought the 5 8 short Indian was there to play chess and asked him to confirm when he filled for powerlifting. Travelling all alone,there was no one to help him strap his gear or even click him with his medals at the end of the eight-day event.
In fact,there could have been more if not for injury that kept him out of more strenuous events. An AFMC record holder in 500m,10,000m half marathon and cross-country races,a tear in his left calf muscle forced Poonia to stay out of the long distance races. But he more than made up for it,buying a javelin 22 days before departure and working on getting better at throwing it. Good enough to win a medal.
All this while,Poonia received financial support and encouragement from the Rashtrapati Bhawan,though the lack of a professional team supporting him did affect his training.
At the same time,Poonia had his priorities clear. I always knew Ill have to give up something if I want to continue with sports. There were no Saturday nights or parties for me. After my duties at the Rashtrapati Bhawan,I would take out two-three hours for training. There were times I used to feel low because of my strict schedule but now I feel it has all been worth this success, he said.
After he won the javelin bronze,Poonia says the gold medallist from Hungary asked him about his lack of technique. I told him,I learnt to throw Javelin through You Tube videos. Not surprisingly,he wasnt believed.