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Dingko Singh (1979-2021): Asiad gold medallist, trailblazer who showed the way for India’s boxing stars, dies at 42

FROM AN orphan who knew nothing else however boxing to turning into a task mannequin for India’s best champions, Dingko Singh touched many lives. On Thursday, the 1998 Asian Games gold medallist succumbed to cancer, after a protracted battle, at his residence in Imphal. He was 42.

It was Dingko’s historic gold medal that raised the morale of success-starved Indian boxing and went on to encourage Olympic medallists akin to Vijender Singh and Mary Kom. His first coach Ibomcha Singh nonetheless remembers the nine-year-old boy who shadow-boxed along with his trainees at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) centre in Imphal.

“A trainee told me that Dingko is from the orphanage nearby. Dingko would tell me, ‘Sir, maa-baap nahin hain, humko boxing hi aata hai’,” mentioned Ibomcha, breaking down over the cellphone from Imphal. “When Dingko won the Asian Games gold, there was no electricity in Imphal due to a strike. We lit candles and celebrated the whole night with the Indian flag. Dingko knew only boxing, and the country will always remember him for that.”

One of eight youngsters, Dingko grew up in Sekta village close to Imphal along with his elder brother and youthful sister after their father died and mom left residence. The siblings took up work as farm labourers whilst Dingko ended up at the orphanage. That was when he met Imbocha, and inside a yr, turned the sub-junior nationwide champion.

His lightning-fast response time and dedication left boxing consultants mesmerised at first sight. For former India chief coach G S Sandhu, Dingko was a “strong boxer with an unmatched reaction time”. Fellow bantamweight boxer Akhil Kumar “fell in love with the left hook”.

“After seeing Dingko throw the left hook with such speed and accuracy, it became one of my favourite punches,” mentioned Akhil, the 2006 Commonwealth Games bantamweight champion. “I got to train with him during the Manchester CWG where he shared several tips with me.”

In 1998, Dingko ended India’s 16-year wait for the Asian Games gold medal. But the victory didn’t come simply. In Bangkok, he defeated world No. 3 Wong Sontaya and world No. 5 Timur (*42*) in the last two bouts. The actual battle, nonetheless, was to get Dingko on the flight to Bangkok.

Two days earlier than the Indian contingent’s departure, Dingko was dropped by the Indian Olympic Association, with officers deciding that he was out of shape. What adopted was a mass intervention, as Sandhu, international coach BI Fernandez and boxing federation president Ashok Kumar Mattoo referred to as for Dingko to be reincluded.

“I don’t know what led to IOA removing his name but it was a nervous night for all of us at (the national camp in) Patiala,” recalled Sandhu. “Some boxers saw Dingko going towards the nearby railway tracks and we scampered to locate him. We made him believe that he will go to Bangkok. I made sure that two boxers remained in his room. Such was his passion for the sport.”

Fernandez usually accompanied Dingko to worldwide competitions previous to the Asian Games.

“When I first trained him in the national camp, I was surprised by the speed of his punches. It was not normal for an Indian boxer and I would often joke with him that it’s good for the opponents but not for the sparring coach,” mentioned the Cuban coach. “Once in Cuba, he beat a top-five Mongolian boxer. Afterwards, more than 100 kids lined up to take his autograph. For him, it was like winning a medal.”

After retirement, Dingko served as the Indian Navy’s boxing coach for greater than 5 years earlier than resigning attributable to sickness and becoming a member of SAI Imphal. Suronjoy Singh, the 2010 Commonwealth Games champion who works as a coach with the Navy, says Dingko was his idol.

“I met him as a kid after the Sydney Olympics, and he made sure he met every single kid at the stadium at Imphal. As a coach, he was aggressive and would ask trainees to train with the other hand if one hand was injured. But then, he would also let many boxers from Manipur and other states stay at his Mumbai home during Navy trials,” Suronjoy mentioned.

Soon, nonetheless, Dingko’s largest battles had been outdoors the ring.

In 2017, when medical doctors confirmed the most cancers analysis of 2016, spouse Babai Ngangom didn’t have the coronary heart to interrupt the information to Dingko. And final yr, Dingko examined constructive for Covid after returning to Imphal from Delhi, the place he was present process remedy for liver most cancers.

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