Guwahati: Even as we prepare to say goodbye to 2022, it would not be an exaggeration to say that few people in India know about the sports of Lawn Bowls, and fewer follow or participate in the game. This is despite India’s heroics at the Commonwealth Games earlier this year.
So you can only imagine how Ruptu Gogoi must have felt when he took up this unknown sport almost fifteen years ago.
You can ask Gogoi a variety of questions, but the most important question is what it feels like to play a sport that is not featured in the Asian Games, and the pinnacle of sport: the Olympics.
The multi-generational sport has been on the Commonwealth Games route since 1930 and is concentrated in countries with a colonial past, but for the likes of Ruptu, who boasts three consecutive gold medals at the National Games (2011, 2015 and 2022), the CWG is none other than Mt Everest.
“I have come across such statements before, but I have a different view on it. Look, for us the Commonwealth Games are like Mount Everest, for other disciplines it could be the Asian Games or the Olympic Games. Since bocce isn’t featured in the other two events, we’re trying to get to the top of our competition, and every budding player will aim to make it to the podium at the CWG,” Ruptu told EastMojo after receiving a gold medal. won in triples at the recent inter-district meeting, here.
“It’s about being happy with what we have under control. As players, we don’t have the power to take the game to the Olympics. Who knows what the future holds, but for now we are happy to participate in the National Games and the CWG. Also, there are several continental and invitational events every year,” he added.
Ruptu, who works for the Assam policestarted his career as a long jumper in 2003 before a neurological disorder forced him to retire from athletics in 2007. But he found his calling in lawn bowls.
In 2008, he attended his first camp at the city’s Sarusajai Stadium, the only center in the state with dedicated bowls greens. And in less than a year, he found himself among the state’s top names alongside Arjuna Awardee Nayan Moni Saikia, Taniya Choudhury, Mridul Borgohain and Mohammed Raja, among others, who earned their respective places in the upcoming national camp. of the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
The Dibrugarh native’s inclusion in the national camp meant they boarded the flight to New Zealand and Malaysia as part of the team’s preparation under former Australian head coach Richard Gale.
But fate would have it that, hours after the opening ceremony of the 2010 CWG, Ruptu was stricken with dengue, which had already taken its toll on the national capital during one of the worst outbreaks of that year.
Ruptu’s dreams of representing his country as a team manager cum player were hit hard on his debut.
Not the kind of person to give up meekly, Ruptu won gold in doubles and bronze in singles at the National Games in 2011 before finishing fourth at the 2012 HK prize money tournament in Hong Kong. In between, he also competed in the Asian Championship in 2012.
Ruptu recaptured lost glory with the doubles gold medal at the 2013 national championships and kept herself in the hunt at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
Selected for the national camp in preparation for the CWG 2014 alongside Nayan Moni Saikia and Taniya Choudhury, Ruptu wanted to make the most of the missed opportunity of the previous edition before his neurological condition deteriorated and he ended up in the hospital bed of the Guwahati. Medical College.
“This has bothered me from the long jump days, and after I switched to bowls I was fine initially, although I was on medication from time to time. If I have to put it in simple terms, it pinches the nerves in the right shoulder and wrist, and it affects my bowling. Sometimes it’s hard to expose myself to sunlight for a long period of time,” he explained his condition.
Ruptu came back strong at the 2015 National Games by encoreing the previous edition with Gold in doubles and bronze in fours. Three years later, impressive performances kept him in the national reckoning, and winning the trials for the Gold Coast CWG meant he could finally achieve his dreams of representing India at the highest level.
But luckily, more disappointment was in store for many players, including Ruptu. Due to the ugly politics of the Bowling Federation of India, eight of the 10 players selected to represent India came from Jharkhand, the home state of former national team manager (2010-2019) Madhukant Pathak.
Despite a two-month acclimatization and training camp Down Under, the Indian team returned from Gold Coast empty-handed.
In 2019, Ruptu withdrew from a tournament in China for medical reasons. Following the Covid19-induced lockdown, he fell out of the national reckoning ahead of the Birmingham Games where the women’s four team (Nayan Moni, (Rupa Rani Tirkey, Lovely Choubey and Pinki Singh) made history with the first ever gold medal. The men’s team of four, consisting of Sunil Bahadur, Navneet Singh, Chandan Kumar Singh and Dinesh Kumar, returned with silver.
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Excited about the performance of the teams in the CWG and Nayan Moni being honored with the Arjuna award, Ruptu said, “This is a recognition for the entire Lawn Bowls community in India. We are proud of Nayan Moni’s efforts and the sacrifices she has had to make to earn that respect. Her award will serve as an inspiration to the next generation of lawn bowlers.”
Ruptu, the youngest of three sons of a farmer in Dibrugarh, put his disappointment behind him and represented Assam at the 36th National Games in Gujarat. He completed a doubles gold hat-trick at Kensville Golf and Country Club. He took bronze as part of the state four team.
Over time, Ruptu has learned to balance the highs of podium finishes and deal with heartbreak.
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