Sports enthusiasts may distinctly remember the young, handsome boxer from Manipur who helped India raise its medal tally at the Asian Games in 1998, winning a gold and millions of hearts. Ngangom Dingko Singh became a hero for the whole nation as he returned home from Thailand with an impressive win. The Arjuna awardee also received the Padmashri in 2013.
However, the pugilist is fighting a far more serious battle today. The champion once described as talented and ferocious was diagnosed with bile duct cancer in 2016. A bout of jaundice in July led to the discovery of the disease that had destroyed his liver. About 70% of the damaged liver was surgically removed in January 2017. The prescribed dose of chemotherapy will begin soon.
The Indian naval boxer and his family are managing the crisis as best as they can. The irony is that the once respected and well known sportsperson has been reduced to a cancer patient struggling to meet the expenses of treatment. The country that once rewarded him with honors has not been able to help Dingko Singh in this lonely battle.
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Dingko and his wife Babai Singh had to move into a friend’s three-room apartment in Delhi for Dingko’s treatment at AIIMS. Though part of the cost of the surgery and treatment at the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences in New Delhi will be reimbursed under the Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS), the family had to sell their home in Imphal to meet other expenses. The Singhs are optimistic and calm as they slowly negotiate their way through the troubled times. Dingko’s body has responded well to the surgery but there are six chemotherapy sessions remaining. The SAI (Sports Authority of India) also came to Dingko’s aid with INR 50,000.
An Indian who decided to step forward and make a difference is yet another sportsman. Indian cricketer Gautam Gambhir has extended financial support to Dingko Singh. The Delhiite batsman brought to public notice the situation of the cancer-stricken champion through his Twitter handle. His tweet spoke volumes, “We must take care of our champions just as they make us proud.” As Ngangom Dingko Singh battles cancer, the least one can do for an international gold medalist is to share the financial strain as he combats the emotional and physical effects of the deadly disease.