KATHMANDU, Sept 21: The last days of Nepal´s first Olympian Bhupendra Silwal were quite eventful, as the 78-year-old athlete got a glimpse of the recent London Olympics just in time before parting from this world forever on Thursday night.
The former armyman died following an operation for a tumor in his stomach at the Army Hospital. Silwal was suffering from multiple aliments and did not regain consciousness after the operation.
A local of Mahendradada village in Godavari, Lalitpur, Silwal had raised quite a few eyebrows in the 1958 Asian Games where he ran barefoot to finish the marathon in the seventh position.
After his Olympics debut six years later, Silwal was forgotten for decades, before, ironically, bursting into life earlier this year after winning the NSJF Pulsar Lifetime Achievement Award in the twilight of his life.
An elated Silwal was over the moon after winning the award, which was also instrumental in giving him the opportunity to watch the Olympics almost half a century after his first participation in the Tokyo Games.
“This award has changed my life. Everyone knows me again,” Silwal had told Republica after winning the award.
NSJF, organizer of the Sports Award, took initiatives to seek support from NRN UK for Silwal´s trip to London, which was a dream come true for the forgotten Silwal.
“I am very glad to watch the Olympics after almost 50 years,” a beaming Silwal had said before leaving for London.
Hidden behind the smile was his awareness that he was nearing the end of his life´s journey. Another Olympian Ganga Bahadur Thapa, who competed along with Silwal in Tokyo, had passed away two years ago and Silwal often used to say that he too was about to meet his end.
“I could have won gold had I got proper shoes to compete in the 1958 Asian Games but Nar Shumsher jarsaab ordered us to run barefoot. We were soldiers and couldn´t disobey the orders. He thought we were capable of winning the race even without shoes,” Silwal had said.
“By the time I ran in Tokyo Olympics it was too late. I was leading the race but my muscles got cramped.”
Silwal is survived by his wife and a son. His younger son, a soldier, died in mysterious circumstances in his barracks at Rajdal Battalion during Maoist insurgency.
Silwal had said that the Army informed him that his son died inside the barracks but suspicions arose after it was learnt that the Maoists had not attacked the barrack.
Meanwhile, Nepal´s most successful athlete Deepak Bista said that he still could not believe that Olympian Silwal is no more.
“I still feel that Bhupendra dai will come here to teach us any moment,” said Bista, who won a record four consecutive golds in the South Asian Games from the eighth to the eleventh edition.
Athletes, sports officials and former Olympians paid their last tributes to Olympian Silwal on Friday. Nepal Olympic Committee President Dhruba Bahadur Pradhan, General Secretary Jeewan Ram Shrestha and National Sports Council Member Secretary Yuvaraj Lama were present during the occasion.
Sushil Ghimire, secretary at the Ministry of Youth and Sports, draped Olympian Silwal´s body with the national flag.
Meanwhile, Nepal Olympian Association´s President Sunil Lal Joshi handed over Rs 10,000 to the family members of Silwal.
Silwal was cremated at the Pashupati Aryaghat on Friday.