MC Dhawan: A lost hero who made huge contribution to the sports story of India

MC Dhawan (Photo: IANS)
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By Archana Sharma

Jaipur– At a time when there are big stories of sport heroes being shared for marking their presence in the Olympics, the chroniclers for some reason are missing out on Mehar Chand Dhawan, who served in Ajmer’s Mayo College as the athletic supervisor and who did make some impression in the Olympics by finishing 14th in the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics in triple jump (hop, step and jump). He was also the man behind organising the first Asian Games in India.

Despite contributing a lot to the nation by coaching many sports legends including Milkha Singh, he surprisingly remains a forgotten hero in Indian sports history.

Dhawan was among the few coaches who trained Milkha. He also coached the Indian athletics team for the Tokyo Olympics where Milkha missed a medal by a whisker.

He was the leader of the Rajputana (now Rajasthan) contingent that participated in the first National Games of India held in Bombay (Mumbai) in February 1950. Also, he was the first person to organise athletics as a sport in the country and in 1950, he was elected as the honorary secretary of the Amateur Athletic Federation of India (AAFI) which is now called the Athletics Association of India (AAI).

Having been an Olympian, he learned the importance of coaching and in 1950, he organised the first coaching camp for athletes and coaches in Saatal in Nainital.

The second athlete’s training camp at Subathu (Simla hills) in the summer of 1950, was also organised by him. It won’t be wrong to say that he laid the foundation of organised coaching in the country.

Not many people are aware that during the National Games in 1950, the idea of staging the first-ever Asian Games was floated by Mehar Chand Dhawan and his brother SS “Sherri” Dhawan, who worked in the railways in Delhi.

With no money, the Director of the Organising Committee Anthony De Mello wanted to cancel the first Asian Games when with the moral support of the Dhawan brothers, he managed to get funds.

The first-ever Asian Games were organised in Delhi with just 11 teams including Japan participating after a preparation of just 11 months. There were four persons mainly responsible for holding the Asian Games in 1951 — MC Dhawan, Sherri Dhawan, Mehar Singh, a physical instructor of Government College, Ajmer and M L Kapur, a sports journalist from The Tribune newspaper. M C Dhawan was the man responsible for all the technical aspects as he had a very sound knowledge of the technical part of all the sports.

The first Asian Games concluded without a single mistake or a protest from any of the participating countries which proves that Dhawan had strong organising skills.

An old record of Mayo College says, “Dhawan was our Athletic Sports Supervisor who went to Loughborough College, England, in August 1952 after the Helsinki Olympic Games for training in athletic coaching.”

On his return from England after getting specialized training as a coach, he was the most knowledgeable coach for athletics in the country. And hence organised a training camp in Mayo College in the winter holidays. Dhawan was invited by the Commandant, National Defence Academy, to train their athletes during the Dussehra holidays.

Dhawan left for the US in 1955 for three months on a “LeaderSpecialist” grant from the Department of State to study athletics, education and youth welfare work.

He spent his last days in Ajmer, the city he loved. He has two daughters, one of whom is in the US while the other, Meenakshi is married to Brigadier (Retd) V K Vaid, a hero of the 1971 war and a former Rajasthan badminton champion.

Dhawan was born in Shimla in 1912. He studied in Lahore at the famous Government College and excelled in athletics under the guidance of Prof G D Sondhi, who was the man who pioneered the Olympic movement in India.

He did his Bachelor of Teaching (BT) course and then joined Mayo College as a history teacher. But those being the days of the Second World War, he was asked to take army classes too.

In those days, education was quite different. In Mayo, it was important to play at least one game with full devotion and dedication. Dhawan was a disciplined man of virtue and principles who had this dedication for athletics and hence scored many firsts in the sports history of India, says his student Ranvir Singh, 93, a well known author, writer and dramatist. (IANS)


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