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Gopal Bhardwaj recalls trip on roller skates to Delhi; laments decline of the sport in Mussoorie

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By Sunil Sonker

Mussoorie, 18 Feb: Gopal Bhardwaj, 75 years old now, and his friends covered a distance of about 320 km from Mussoorie to Delhi in 1975 on roller skates within 5 days. He celebrated the 49th anniversary of the day by skating at the Mussoorie Garhwal Terrace.

Bhardwaj recalled that, when he made the trip in 1975, he entered Delhi for the first time in his life. On entering Delhi, he and his friends were given a grand welcome by the people of Delhi, the Police and the Roller Skating Federation. They were also given a reward of Rs 50, each, by the Coca Cola Company. They were also interviewed on Doordarshan, which was quite a big deal for them. He said that very modern skates are available at present, but in the late ‘70s, such equipment was not to be had. The players then used skates with iron wheels. Those who accompanied him were Sangara Singh, Anand Mishra, Gurdarshan Singh Jaiswal and Gurcharan Singh Hora of Mussoorie. They set out on the roller-skating trip from Mussoorie on 14 February, 1975, under the guidance of Ashok Pal Singh, a three-time national champion in figure skating. The journey was completed on 18 February, 1975, on reaching Delhi, via Dehradun, Roorkee, Muzaffarnagar and Meerut.

Gopal Bhardwaj recalled that, at that time, such events used to happen only in European countries. This was the first road skating trip in Asia for such a long distance. Upon reaching Delhi, the then Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, Dr Krishna Chandra, was present to welcome the five skaters. With skates having iron wheels, these had to be changed frequently. At times, he and his companions continued the journey for many kilometres on three wheels. When they were passing through Dehradun, Vijay Lakshmi Pandit stood on the Rajpur Road and encouraged them on. Their first halt was in Dehradun, the second in Roorkee, the third in Muzaffarnagar and the fourth in Meerut. On reaching Delhi on the fifth day, they were given a warm welcome.

Gopal Bhardwaj said that, excited by this expedition, the team members decided to cover the 490 kms distance from Mussoorie to Amritsar on roller skates. Ten skaters from Mussoorie left for Amritsar by road on 9 December, 1975, and reached Amritsar on 17 December, 1975. The team comprised Anand Mishra, Jaskiran Singh, Surat Singh Rawat, Ajay Mark, Sangara Singh, Gurdarshan Singh, Gurcharan Singh Hora, Lakhbir Singh, Jaswinder Singh and Bhardwaj. Anand Mishra, Gurdarshan Singh Jaiswal and Gurcharan Singh Hora are no longer in this world. Only Sangara Singh and he still remain. But, till today, none of these skaters have received any acknowledgement or honour from the government. As a result of this, roller skating and roller hockey are dying in Mussoorie. He pointed out that Mussoorie has a golden history in roller skating and roller hockey. From 1880 to 1970, the Skating Rink Hall of Mussoorie had the distinction of being the oldest and largest skating rink in Asia. In the 20th century, between 1981 and 1990, roller skating-roller hockey and Mussoorie complemented each other. The month of October used to be extremely important for Mussoorie during this period. Eminent skaters from all over the country used to gather for the All India Roller Skating Competition held here every year. During this almost all players used to display their artistic and speed skating as well as play roller hockey.