Events in the 2,000m steeplechase in the men’s ‘85-years-and-above’ age-category resembled a gripping movie script, rather than just a regular athletics event.
Eight-eight year-old C.K. Saihgal, the sole participant in this event, overcame age, the ire of event officials, and even a couple of heart-stopping falls to win the affection of everyone present at the venue.
As athletes from other age-group categories eased past the finish line, Saihgal inched along at a snail’s pace. Officials at the venue were sent into a tizzy; they quickly realised that Saihgal could do some damage to his health if he chose to continue.
A determined Saihgal, however, refused to entertain all requests to stop, and insisted that he must be allowed to complete.
As Saihgal gingerly approached the water hurdle, a big crowd gathered. The octogenarian attempted a smooth drop into the water, but instead, slipped and made a big splash. He dusted himself off, and carried on.
Once again, Saihgal shot down pleas from the attending doctor and officials to give it up. Soon, the men’s ‘40-to-45 years’ steeplechase began. The younger, stronger men did well to avoid Saihgal, averting a sure disaster.
On the third lap, Saihgal slowly worked his way over a hurdle. Another slip on the landing saw him crash to the ground, and the crowd screamed in horror. The race was now well and truly over, and Saihgal grudgingly agreed to get off the track.
“I’m fine, don’t worry about me,” a bruised Saihgal said, as medical personnel rushed to his aid. And this is how the man cooled down after a brutal race — a 300-metre walk across the stadium to find his kit.