Now the 27-year-old would like to believe that the medal was worth the sacrifice.
“I recently got my commercial pilot license and I have an exam with Air India tomorrow but I can’t reach there. Now that we finally have a medal, it is okay,” Navneet told PTI after India lost the men’s four finals to Northern Ireland.
“The tournament has been a game changer for us. We surprised a lot of people here, especially the win over England in the semis (India had lost to England in the league stage). We ourselves were not prepared for it.”
Navneet is the youngest member of the quartet that secured the men’s four silver at Victoria Park here.
The others include 37-year-old Chandan Kumar Singh, Sunil Bahadur and Dinesh Kumar, who all had to endure the disappointment of missing out on a medal in 2014 and 2018 by a small margin.
Chandan is a sports teacher in a school in Munger district in Bihar, while 45-year-olds Dinesh and Sunil are with Jharkhand Police. Dinesh is a constable, while Sunil is now a sub inspector having got an out of turn promotion following his exploits on the bowling greens.
India had stunned the mighty England, who have a rich tradition in Lawn Bowls, to make the semifinals. It was Chandan, who hit a ‘miracle shot’ to ensure a special win as the team trailed for the majority of the contest.
The silver following the gold-winning effort from the women’s team has capped off a potentially game-changing performance for India at the Games.
“We have heard that you are rewarded after winning medals. We finally have one now, so hoping better things are in store for us,” said Navneet, who like her coach Pinki accidentally picked up the sport when his school became a training facility for lawn bowls during the 2010 CWG in Delhi.
“I used to play cricket but Pinki mam got me into lawn bowls,” said Navneet.
Pinki and Co had achieved a remarkable first for India by winning the women’s fours gold.
Pinki, a sports teacher in DPS RK Puram in Delhi, happens to be Navneet’s Coach as well.
“It can’t get better than this with my student also now winning a medal,” she said with a lot of pride in her voice.
Jharkhand emerges as Lawn Bowls hotbed
A second medal in the Games has made it clear that the sport is thriving in Jharkhand. The players are rewarded for their performances and the infrastructure is in place with the RK Anand Bowling Greens in Ranchi, a facility run by coach Madhukant Pathak.
Women’s team members Lovely Choubey and Rupa Rani Tirkey also train there.
“In Jharkhand, kids are also playing the sport. The infrastructure is in place and the government support is also there. You will see much younger players coming out of that center in the future,” said team skip Dinesh.
After a couple of unexpected medals, the players are now hoping for an increased support from the authorities.
“We have the Asia Pacific event coming up which comes once in four years. The Delhi government is yet to get back to us on funding. A medal should change that,” said Navneet.
The CWG trip has been funded by the government but for other events the players pay out of their own pockets. They hope that will change too.
“We get to 1 or 2 events in a year which is not enough, we need at least 4 events and for that we need additional funding,” added Sunil.