Last month, when 82-year-old veteran athlete Gurbachan Singh Saunkhla was preparing for his first event in the 20th Asian Masters Athletic Championship in Ragao, China, he suffered a minor knee injury due to the wet out-field. Incessant rains meant that the track was still wet and Saunkhla took part in the championships with the injury. The veteran athlete won the silver medal with a jump of 6.76 M in triple jump apart from winning the bronze medal in long jump category with a jump of 2.76 M. Saunkhla was also part of the Indian 4X100 M and 4X400 M relay teams which won the bronze medal in the two events.
“The conditions were very rough in China. It was raining heavily for two days when we reached there. The practice sessions were also held in rains. I injured my left knee but wanted to give my best and aim for medals. Earlier, my doctors told me to get my knee joints replaced but that would have meant end of my athletics career. Winning the silver medal in triple jump and bronze in the long jump means a lot. It will motivate me to train more,” said Saunkhla, who retired as the Assistant Director, Postal Services, Punjab Circle and also served in Army Postal Services for 22 years.
The 82-year-old, who is an executive members of Haryana Masters Athletics Association, started his career in athletics in 1992 and has so far won 28 medals including 14 gold medals in nationals. After missing out on a medal in the Asian Masters Athletics Championships in Singapore in 2009, Saunkhla won team gold in 4X400 M relay in the same meet in Malaysia in 2010 before winning a gold medal in triple jump with a jump of 7.95 M in the 2012 edition of the championship.
In the last edition of the Asian Masters Athletics Championships in Japan, the veteran athlete was the member of the Indian 4X400 M and 4X100 M relay teams which won bronze medals. “I came fourth in Singapore in 2009 and wanted to win medals. I practiced daily at Tau Devi Lal Stadium and the medals in Malaysia boosted my confidence. For the China meet last month, I had to spend more than Rs 1 lakh from my own pocket as our national federation and government do not sponsor masters athletes. I missed the last world championships in France in 2015 due to paucity of funds. The next world championships is in Spain and if I am able to arrange money, I will compete there and win a medal,” said Saunkhla, who resides in Sector 2, Panchkula.