Saihgal, soldiering on at 88!

Octogenarian impresses all with his determined performance

Saihgal, soldiering on at 88!

For the 88-year-old C L Saihgal, the 2000M steeplechase in the men's 75+ category at the 34th National Masters Championships turned out to be quite an experience.

As he assembled along side other competitiors at the start of the race here on Sunday at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, nobody could have predicted the drama and tension that Saihgal would generate over the next thirty minutes.

Saihgal, who had won the 2000M steeplechase gold in the men’s 85+ category in the 17th Asia Masters in Taipei last year, had already won a silver in the 800m in the men’s 85+ category earlier in the day.

Running with athletes who were at least 10 years his junior, it was clear that Saihgal, who hails from Delhi, was struggling to catch up with the rest. While the other competitiors lapped him, he carried on grimly with a look of steely determination in his eyes.

Frail looking and in danger of falling into the water hurdle, the authorties urged Saihgal to stop but there was no looking back. A doctor was on the track walking along side him to ensure that he was healthy enough to continue, but Saighal was too engrossed in his mission to listen to doctor’s words.

Even ten minutes after the winner had crossed the finishing line, Saihgal seemed determined to finish the race. In the third water hurdle, he indeed fell into the water which evoked a few nervous glances from the organisers but he carried on. It seemed nothing or nobody could stop Saihgal from finishing the race.

The authorities, who were now behind the schedule, started the men's steeplechase in the 35+ category even though Saihgal was still on the track. At one point of time, Saihgal simultaneously hurdled with men who were half his age. It was surreal to watch on and the sizable crowd couldn't help but admire the willpower of the man and cheered him.

The authorities finally pleaded with Saihgal to stop and he relented. Even Saihgal’s warmdown contained a walk across the grassy patch towards the other end of the arena.

Afterwards, Saihgal said: "You saw for yourself that they removed me from the track when I wanted to continue.” When asked whether he thought he would get hurt, Saighal said: “Where is the question of getting hurt? It is all god’s grace and practice.”

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