The rough football ground of Dadar Parsi Gymkhana is cultivating rare laurels. Two middle-aged neighbours have won India a gold and a
silver medal at the prestigious World Masters Games held in Sydney mid-October. Fareez Vasania, a 45-year-old industrial photographer, and 49-year-old lawyer Rohinton Mehta, who defends tobacco major ITC in court, are untouchable in their events although the spotlight is yet to turn on them in a nation obsessed with cricket.
The WMG championship held every four years invites individual athletes above the age of 35 to participate. This year the Games were held from October 10-18 at the very Mondo track which was used for the Sydney Olympics 2000. Of 28,000 competitors representing 85 countries, three were Parsis from India and two of them won. Backed by nothing but self-will, with no government or corporate support to lead the way, they brought victory to India.
Vasania, whose mother Zarine was among the first female car racers in the country and father a boxer, won the silver at the triple jump event for men over 45 by clocking a distance of 11.77 m. Showing a photograph of himself at the victory stand, he laughs and says he "spoiled the party” for the Australians who came in first and third by taking the middle position.
The self-trained athlete builds his stamina by coaching the boys of Parsi gym at football. In the run-up to a major sporting event, though, Vasania goes over to the Army Sports Institute in Pune to fine-tune his skill and timing.
Meanwhile, dwelling on his exclusivity as a 400 m hurdle champion, Rohinton Mehta proudly shows the gold medal he won in the 45-plus category for a timing of 64.44 seconds. Mehra has compiled a portfolio of documents which contain every little fact and statistic on the Games as well as his own track record, along with pictorial evidence burned on a CD. "The World Masters championship is the equivalent of the Senior Olympics so none but the best qualify. We are untouchable in our events,” he declares, citing instances of having beaten sprightly 20-year-olds in city meets that are open to all age groups.
For both of them, the victory is significant given that they beat countries like Australia, Poland and the US whose athletes are naturally well-built, where training facilities are available and support plentiful. "I, on the other hand, paid for everything. In fact, each of us spent over Rs one lakh from our own reserves on travel, accommodation and the entry fee to the championship,” says Vasania.
Unsung and unhonoured in a country with eyes glazed by cricket, the duo is hardly signing autographs, granting marathon interviews or shooting commercials.
Original article here.