Shamsher Khan : The Heart-breaking story of India's forgotten Olympian
The post-independence era of India was not the best in various aspects. The country was still recovering from the British rule and was trying to stand on its own feet. But as is always with Indians, one brave heart named Shamsher Khan was dreaming big. Shamsher Khan wanted to make India proud by representing India in the 1956 Summer Olympics at Melbourne, Australia. Shamsher was the first India summer to achieve this feat.
In 1954, Shamsher accomplished the national record in the 200-meter butterfly and went on to break all records at Bangalore in 1955 during a national meet. These achievements guaranteed that we made it to the 1956 Olympics in Australia.
He secured the 5th position in the qualifiers and participated in both breaststroke and butterfly style adding to the achievement of being the 1st Indian swimmer to represent the country at the Olympics. His achievements from 1956 are unparalleled till date and still stand strong as no modern swimmer has managed to repeat it. Infact, no Indian swimmer has even managed to rank as high in Olympic qualifiers as Shamsher did in 1956.
Shamsher Khan was then enlisted in the Indian Army and also served the country in the 1962 Indo-China war and also the following 1971 Indo-Pakistan war where he fought bravely for the nation.
Having being indebted by Shamsher Khan, one would wonder how the Indian government would reward such amazing achievements by this great individual. But the treatment that he faced was appalling to say the least.
The Indian government did sponsor his air tickets to Melbourne as they are supposed to, but then later they had the amount deducted from his salary. If this was not disrespectful enough after the 1990 cyclones, where Shamsher had to fight for his life, he found out that his name was ignored and missed out from list of ‘Hall of Famers’ by the Swimming Federation of India.
In 2010, Shamsher suffered a stroke and he rejected to have any medical assistance so that his family can save money and not suffer because of him. Today, at the age of 83, a national legend like Shamsher has suffered being ignored in the ‘Hall of Fame’ and to add salt to the wound the record of being the first Indian swimmer to qualify for the Olympics has been named after another Indian swimmer Virdhawal Khade instead.
After such ill-treatment,Shamsher Khan currently lives on a small amount of pension at his hometown of Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, and such is the spirit of this man that he still refuses in give in to life and continues to fight on like the champion that he is.
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