Baljit put marriage on hold to realise Olympic dream

Critically injured India goalkeeper battles to save his career

 
Jasbir Singh Bajwa, the Chandigarh coach who groomed Baljit since he was 14, said hockey meant everything for the youngster who is on the verge of losing his full vision after a freak mishap during goalkeeping practice with a golf ball in Pune.

“He has only one goal in life, that is to play in Olympics and help the country win a medal,” Bajwa said. “Baljit is engaged to a girl and the marriage was supposed to take place in December. Baljit deferred it, saying he wants to first play in Olympics before he ties the knot,” Bajwa said.

Dwelling on the accident, Bajwa was baffled how the practice with golf ball took place without proper precautions. ”More than any other player, a goalkeeper’s career hinges entirely on his eyesight and hence you can’t take chance with your eyes. That’s why I always use tennis ball which is bigger and does not swing,” Bajwa said.

Former player Col Balbir Singh, who saw Baljit from close quarters as the manager of the Indian team in the Four-Nation Gold Cup Hockey Tournament in Chandigarh in May, was equally upset after the mishap.

“Having seen him in the Gold Cup, I was convinced that Baljit was answer to Indian hockey’s search for a quality custodian. If the eye injury rules him out of international hockey, it would be a huge setback for Indian hockey,” he said.

Gill meets Baljit
Sports Minister M S Gill on Monday visited Baljit and promised every possible support to help the hockey player regain full vision.

“It is quite unfortunate that Baljit met with such a serious accident when we are preparing for 2010 Commonwealth Games,” Gill said after meeting the player.

“But I have full faith on the doctors in AIIMS and they are convinced about his recovery. We will do whatever could be done to help him recover,” he said.

“I am very, very concerned. Once he is discharged from the hospital, I assure his full rehabilitation and care in the Sports Authority of India (SAI) centre here. And if there is need to send him abroad, we will do that also,” Gill added.

Secretary general of Hockey India Mohd Aslam Khan also visited Baljit in AIIMS.  Ultrasonography tests carried out in Pune had showed the globe to have shrunken and deformed with the intra-ocular contents showing heterogeneous appearance with hemorrhage in the vitreous. The rupture has damaged the retina, cornea and lens of Baljit’s right eye.

The 28-year-old has been replaced in the Europe-bound team by PR Sreejesh for the four-week tour, during which India is scheduled to play 12 Test matches against England, Belgium, Spain and Holland.

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