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Real Life SuperHero: Harbhajan Singh Aulakh

by MANPREET KAUR SINGH

 

Sports lovers around the world may associate the name ‘Harbhajan Singh' with cricket, but a grand old athlete from Melbourne, Australia, may soon become the more recognizable sports personality with that name!

77-year old Harbhajan Singh Aulakh is competing at the World Masters Games being held in Sydney and is tipped to be one of the more successful veteran athletes in the world.

He has competed in seven events so far and has already won three gold, three silver and one bronze medal. With another six events still to come, who know what the final tally might be!!

Earlier this year in February-March, Harbhajan Singh won six gold medals at the 12th Australian Masters Games held in Geelong (Victoria) and since then, he had his sights set at the upcoming World Masters in Sydney.

At the Australian Masters, he was to compete in 11 events, but unfortunately a muscle pull forced him to withdraw after six events. He says ruefully,"I had to forfeit my pet events because of the muscle pull, otherwise I would have won many more gold medals at the Australian Masters. But as a result of that, I've practiced and trained really hard during the last few months. I know exactly what my competition is and I know how to beat them. So I'm taking part in 13 events at the World Masters in Sydney".

Amazingly, he had won a gold medal in every event that he participated in at the Australian Masters, and even in Sydney, he has kept up the winning streak by winning a medal at every event so far.

He is participating in 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 1500m, 5000m, 5000m Walk, 100m Hurdles, 400m Hurdles, Steeple Chase, Long Jump, Triple Jump and High Jump.

Migrating to Australia just over two years ago and proudly displaying the Australian flag at the World Masters tournament, Harbhajan Singh says, "I've made Punjabis and Indians happy all my life; this time round, I want to make the Australians happy by winning medals for them."

Sardar Harbhajan Singh is a simple soul who describes himself as an "illiterate village bumpkin"; but the great spirit and determination that he embodies could as easily be described as essentially Punjabi or quintessentially Australian!

"Nobody has ever paid or sponsored me to compete at any event, whether nationally or internationally. I've done it all at my own expense, because I love competing and I don't want to rely on any one's generosity," he says.

Prior to the Sydney tournament, he had won 68 medals (of which a whopping 43 are gold) in national and international events, including the Asian Games and previous World Masters Games.

An accomplished hockey player in his heyday and a school teacher in the prime of his life, he began participating at veterans events since 1981 and has never looked back since. He has won medals in Malaysia, UK, Australia and many other countries apart from India, always paying his own way to the tournaments.

Born on June 16, 1932 in district Gurdaspur of Punjab, he was involved in sports right from his early childhood years. He recalls that back in the old days when he was a youngster competing at various sporting events around Punjab, the winners weren't presented with medals - instead, they won utensils (pots or pans) made of copper or brass!

With a laugh he told me that his mother was most pleased when he won a competition because he would bring home shiny new pots and pans! As an incentive, she would make special "sweet water" for him - just jaggery mixed in water - and goad him on to win more competitions, so her kitchen would be the envy of every other woman in Punjab!

"I collected many utensils in my younger days, thanks to that ‘sweet water'", laughed Harbhajan Singh.

That's the simplicity of this man, who credits his remarkable success in the track field to two women - his mother and his wife. Deeply grateful to the Almighty for his spectacular success, he is also proud of his Melbourne-based son, who provides him with complete financial support, giving him the ability to compete world wide.

"Its not easy to continue doing this, both personally and financially. But I know that if I want to continue, my son wouldn't hesitate in supporting me", he says.

Young at heart, and youthful in his outlook, Harbhajan Singh prefers the company of youngsters. "I may be 77 years old, but my mind tells me, I'm still very young. When I go to tournaments, I prefer to stay with young athletes rather than with the older coaches. I find that I learn a lot from youngsters, from their technique, as well as from their outlook".

Whether or not he becomes the better known Harbhajan Singh in the world of sport, he may soon be rightfully called Australia's own Fauja Singh. And as his medal tally continues to grow in Sydney, Harbhajan is an inspiration to all - that any one can achieve anything, at any age, at any world stage, as long as they put in the required hard work and have the right attitude in life.

 

Editor's Note:  S. Harbhajan Singh's final tally is 10 medals: 4 gold, 4 silver and 2 bronze. He picked up a gold yesterday and a silver and bronze today, even though he had pulled a muscle during his second-last event.  He will not be competing in the final two events that were slated for today.  But its a rich harvest of 10 medals, and we congatulate him for it. (Oct 18, 2009)

To hear an interview with our SuperHero, please click on www.sbs.com.au/punjabi 

October 16, 2009

Conversation about this article

1: Jagdeep Singh Mhay (London, U.K.), October 16, 2009, 10:36 AM.

Well done, S. Harbhajan Singh ji. So nice to see you doing so well in the games. Keep it up!

2: Harinder (Bangalore, India), October 16, 2009, 10:47 AM.

What I want to know is that how come we shine so late in our life. What has happend to our youngsters? I hope it is not the drugs that is getting the better of them.

3: Satbir (Faridabad, India), October 16, 2009, 11:49 AM.

You have made the whole Sikh community so so proud! May you continue for the next 100 yrs ...

4: Jay Shahkur (Malaysia), October 16, 2009, 2:54 PM.

Harbhajan Singh ji: You're great. I salute and respect your will power. We in Malaysia respect you.

5: Kulbir Singh Malhotra (Australia), October 16, 2009, 3:44 PM.

Well done, Harbhajan Singh ji, and also, well done, Manpreet Kaur, for informing us about this great talented Sikh boy (yes, a sportsman is boy or girl and never grows old). I will have to follow his footsteps when I grow old.

6: Tajinder Pal Singh (India/Australia), October 16, 2009, 10:31 PM.

Lions and horses never get old. And more so, Singh Sahib is a combination of both. Long live the spirit of Chardi Kalaa!

7: Yashdeep Singh (Ahmedabad, India), October 17, 2009, 1:08 AM.

The only thing: Singh is King!

8: Irvinder Singh Babra (Brantford, Ontario, Canada), October 17, 2009, 11:27 PM.

Harbhajan Singh exudes so much of athleticism, inner strength and power for all in a world which has gone lazy, a la call centres and digital mode. There are millions of people much younger than him who can't even run 100 meters, who have no energy or even patience to watch that race which finishes in less than 10 seconds! And Harbhajan Singh is a decathlon star who excels in all the 10 athletic events, which is a rigorous exercise demanding the fittest combination of body and mind, and I must say, also the soul. His story and photos in sikhchic.com are hugely inspiring and electrifying. The Sikh world has two "Super Flying Sikhs" or the two quintessential uncles, Harbhajan Singh in Australia and Fauja Singh in the U.K. and they both have given a new, fresh and energizing meaning of life to the Sikhs and non-Sikhs alike. They not only provide a path but also run the path of hope to the world as it might be. Their stories are uncommon and unequalled and people must start running, doing some physical excercise and education with discipline for longevity on a daily basis. Think about them doing the marathon (26 miles and 365 yards) and 5000 meters (12 and a half rounds of 400 meters track in a stadium) which is gruelling. Both of these 'young' men should be showcased as stars at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi next year.

9: Sewak Singh Balle (London, U.K.), October 18, 2009, 12:59 PM.

Well done! Sardar Harbhajan Singh ji, you make the Sikh community proud. Keep up the good work and God bless you! Balle, balle!

10: Q.B.C. (Australia), October 18, 2009, 11:08 PM.

Never give up. You are an insipration for youngsters.

11: Janet Matronila (Kenya), October 21, 2009, 1:11 AM.

Age doesn't matter so long as you have the will power.

12: Savreet, Aakriti, Harmeet, Jyot, Ratna, Kusum (Sunam, India), October 21, 2009, 7:06 AM.

Congratulations, dada ji ... we are very happy for your achievement. You are a great inspiration for us. Tusi jadon vi India aaye, saanu mil ke zaroor jaana. Lots of love.

13: Kunwar (Maryland, U.S.A.), October 21, 2009, 8:16 PM.

We are proud of you and also proud to be Sikh. Boley so nihaal, Sat Sri Akal!

14: Sukhdeep Singh Brar (Australia), October 24, 2009, 11:38 PM.

Sat Sri Akal, Papaji ... You are an inspiration. You proved, "Beh ke dekh jawan, Baabe bhangra paonde ne!" Maharaj tuade aidaan ee Chardi Kalaa vich rakhe!

15: Amrik Singh Ahdan (U.K.), October 25, 2009, 8:11 AM.

Well done! You are an inspiration to those who might say, "I am too old to play". Congratulationa!

16: Jimmy (Auckland, New Zealand), November 02, 2009, 2:55 AM.

Balle Balle, Baba ji ... Kadd ditiyaan Kasraan! JArd te koke. Baba ji,tuhaada haunslaa unna nu vi deo jedde nasheaan vich pae ne ...

17: Dev (Poland), November 02, 2009, 7:57 PM.

Well done, Sardar Sahib. You make us all proud. May Waheguru bless you with the best of health. And success at every stage.

18: Sunny (France), November 02, 2009, 8:00 PM.

Good for you, Sardar Harbhajan Singh ji ... You really proved that age has nothing to do with determination ... Well, keep it up. we expect a century of awards from you ... and we wish you reach your century healthy and safe.

19: Kulwinder Aulakh (New Zealand), December 15, 2011, 5:37 PM.

It is time to feel proud of our great Punjabis. Wish him all the best!

20: Narinder (Brampton, Ontario, Canada), January 28, 2013, 7:41 PM.

Do you still compete? We all feel very proud that our elders are very strong.

21: Brig. Trilok Singh Aulakh (Retd.) (Amritsar, Punjab), September 24, 2013, 12:50 AM.

I am proud to say that I belong to village Aulakh Kalan -- the native village of our hero, Harbhajan Singh ji. Here is a man who defies age and achieves wonders with hard work and determination. Hail, Hail, Sardar Harbhajan Singh ji!

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