Dingko Singh had brought laurels to the country by winning a Gold in the 54kg Bantamweight category of the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok and ended India’s 16 year wait (from 1982) for an Asian Games boxing medal.
After the legendary Hawa Singh who won Gold medals at the 1966 and 1970 Asian Games, India waited for 12 years for the next Asian Games boxing victory. Kaur Singh won Gold medal in 1982. The envelope was then pushed again by boxer Dingko Singh who ended the 16 year in 1998 when he clinched Gold at the Asian Games.
Dingo Singh embarks on a Difficult Journey
Dingko Singh was born on 1 January 1979 in a remote hilly village Sekta in the Imphal District, Manipur in a financially humble family. His parents were forced to leave little Dingko in an orphanage as they were unable to raise the little boy due to poor financial conditions.
Dingko never had the luxuries of a high protein or a properly calibrated diet that athletes are made to follow these days. Nor was it milk and meat. He used to make do with a meagre meal comprising of some rice, dal and curry while staying in an orphanage.
It was at the orphanage where the first boxing chapter in Dingko’s life began. Dingko indulged in impulsive kinds of fights, usually with young boys of his age with the aim of gaining respect within the group.
The Special Area Games Scheme (SAG) started by the Sports Authority of India (SAI) which aims at scouting natural talent from remote areas of the country identified Dingko’s calibre. He received expert supervision of Major O.P. Bhatia to be trained in boxing, paving path for Dingko Singh to establish himself as a super talented boxer in the country.
Dingko Singh – Making of a boxing star..
It was in 1989 when the authorities and coaches started training him for a professional career in boxing when he won the Sub-Junior National Boxing title in 1989 at Ambala at the age of 10. For the next 10 years, Dingko Singh practiced and learnt from the best in India.
Achievements of Dingko Singh
- Won the King’s Cup 1997 at Bangkok, Thailand. Apart from winning the tournament, Dingko Singh was also declared the best boxer of the meet.
- Won the Gold Medal in the boxing event of Asian Games 1998, Bangkok in the 54 kg Bantamweight category
Gold Quest of Dingko Singh
He was selected for the Indian Boxing squad participating in the Bangkok Asian Games 1998 but for unknown reasons he was dropped from the team at the last minutes.
Dejected Dingko went on a drinking spree, collapsing after a long session of drinks. Eventually he was selected and the event proved to be pinnacle of his career as he created history by winning the Gold Medal in the 54 kg Bantamweight category.
In his journey to the Gold, Dingko defeated Wong Prages Sontaya, an excellent Boxer from Thailand in the Semi Final Match. Wong was World No. 3 Boxer at that time, and Dingko’s victory surprised everybody, the whole nation now expecting something special from him.
And the most glorious moments in the Boxing event of the Bangkok Asian Games 1998 arrived when Dingko combated the well known Boxer from Uzbekistan, Timur Tulyakov in the Final Match. At that time, Timur was holding World No. 5 ranking. Dingko had just moved up to the 54 kg category from the 51 kg a few months back before winning the Gold, which made his victory a lot more impressive.
During the match, he proved to be way far better than his opponent, and Timur had to retire after the fourth round of the fight.
Dingko Singh – End of the career at Sydney Olympics
After 1998 Asiad when he ended the 16 year drought for the nation by winning Gold, the expectations were high from the Indian boxer to raise the Indian tricolour at the 2000 Sydney Olympic.
Dingko Singh, the Bangkok Asiad gold medallist crashed out in his very first appearance in the boxing ring at Sydney Olympics. The bantamweight boxer, who got a first round bye, was no match to former World champion Serhiy Danylchenko of Ukraine.
Adding to his woes was the total neglect by Indian officials who stayed away from the fight unlike the previous three bouts when many from the Indian contingent gathered to cheer the boxers.
As the luck did not favour him this time and a resurfaced past injury, Dingko had to leave his dreams behind and retire from the game permanently.
Dingko Singh did not go pro unlike other boxers as he is a service personnel of Indian Navy.
After this, Dingko Singh served in the Indian Navy and is now a Boxing coach with the Sports Authority of India in Imphal.
Official apathy: Premature end to the career of Dingko Singh
Dingko Singh’s career though ended prematurely, due to official apathy. At the 1999 National Games in Imphal, he reached the final but was left without an opponent after Birju Saha pulled out.
With hundreds of fans assembled to see their favourite son in action, officials set up an exhibition against Andhra boxer, Sriramulu. Dingko put on a show, but fractured his wrist during the bout.
With hand in cast, Dingko was in no shape to go on a training stint to Cuba. But officials, fearing that the tour may be called off if the star boxer didn’t go, cruelly persuaded him to take off the cast before attending a function by then sports minister, Uma Bharti, to distribute cash prizes by the government.
That proved a knockout blow as even after a fresh cast was put, the fracture never set perfectly.
Though he did make a return to the ring in 2000 Sydney Olympic, he came nowhere near his best.
Dingko Singh and his bout with Life
Life did not stop being cruel to this National Hero. In a shocking and saddening turn of events, it is reported that Dingko Singh has been diagnosed with bile duct cancer. He is now battling liver cancer.
For the treatment Dingko Singh faced severe financial crunch. To manage his medical expenses the former Navy man was forced to sell his house. “Selling the house was the only option. It was a difficult call to make,” he says with a hint of regret. As of now Dingko Singh and his wife is staying at a friend’s place in a tiny apartment in Shahpur Jat locality in New Delhi, leaving their kids in a boarding house in Imphal.
It was only after the cancer event that the gold medal winning boxers plight came to picture. The Government has now provided initial financial help to cover his medical expenses and will take care of all his needs. Dingko being a government employee, part of the cost of his surgery and hospitalisation at the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS) in New Delhi will be reimbursed under the Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS).
Dingko, on the other hand, is positive about his recovery. ““I dream of training the kids in my village again. I have a belief I will get cured and go back to my village to resume coaching,” he says.
Dingko Singh – An inspiration model
The journey of Dingko had shown many ups and down. Journey of a kid who rose above limitations with sheer grit, the teenager who took the country’s boxing scene by storm.
His fists may not possess that Golden touch like before, but surely as a coach to young athletes, his Midas touch which can bring the glory back to the Indian boxing.
- He was awarded the prestigious Arjuna Award in 1998.
- Padma Shri in 2013.
Lesser Known facts of Dinko Singh:
- His full name is Ngangom Dingko Singh
- Dingko is married to his teenage friend Babai for last seventeen years and has two kids.
- A road in the state capital Imphal is named after him.
We wish him all the best for speedy recovery.
Hope that he can fulfil his dream of nurturing more world-class boxers…