Vijender Singh recalled how Dingko Singh’s 1998 Asian Games gold medal inspired him.
Indian boxing has lost one of its greatest stars as Ngangom Dingko Singh breathed his last in his hometown Imphal, Manipur, on Thursday.
A true fighter inside and outside the ring, Dingko won a gold medal at the 1998 Bangkok Asian Games in the 54kg category, also ending India’s 16-year wait for an Asiad boxing podium finish.
Later in 2017, he was diagnosed with liver cancer for which he was successfully treated. But he had a relapse in 2020 while also getting infected by COVID-19 . The once swashbuckling boxer defeated coronavirus but couldn’t beat cancer. He was 42.
Dingko struggled with poverty in his childhood and fought the menace of cancer in the last years of his life. Pain and struggle were his forever companion, but still, amid all this, he managed to make India proud and his achievements had a direct impact on boxing in the country which led to the emergence of stars like Mary Kom, Laishram Sarita Devi, and Mayengbam Suranjoy Singh among others.
Dingko not only inspired budding boxers in the Northeast but also Vijender Singh far away in Haryana, who would go on to become India’s first-ever boxer to win a medal at Olympics.
“My first memory (of Dingko) is that of the Asian Games fight which we watched on the small black and white television that we had at our home. We were so excited. I remember watching the match and he won gold. We were sitting on the terrace with my cousin brothers. He was a hero to us. What a fight that was. Amazing,” says Vijender who won bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
“I was so inspired. It’s always inspiring when you see an Indian winning a medal for the nation. At that age of 13-14, all I wanted was to meet him one time, to shake his hand, take a picture.”
My sincerest condolences on this loss May his life’s journey & struggle forever remain a source inspiration for the upcoming generations. I pray that the bereaved family finds the strength to overcome this period of grief & mourning 🙏🏽 #dinkosingh
— Vijender Singh (@boxervijender) June 10, 2021
Dingko’s demise has left the whole community in shock and Vijender termed it as a “massive loss” for Indian boxing.
“It’s a great loss. A massive loss for Indian boxing. We never expected he would leave us all so soon,” says Vijender who along with Manoj Kumar and other boxers stepped forward to raise funds for Dingko’s treatment last year.
“Last year during the COVID-19 pandemic, we arranged 9-10 lakh rupees for his treatment through the WhatsApp group that we have for boxers. If we had any idea of the treatment that he needed now, the boxing fraternity would have done everything to provide him assistance but eventually, it’s all in the hands of God.”
After retiring from the sport, Dingko worked as a coach in Imphal due to which Vijender didn’t spend much time with him but the 35-year-old boxer fondly remembers the time when they were together during the 2010 Commonwealth Games when the senior fighter worked in the administration.
“During the 2010 Commonwealth Games, we spent a lot of time together in the locker room. He was part of the administration,” recalls Vijender.
“There’s a picture also from that time that I posted today on Instagram. That’s how life is, unpredictable.”