“What I learned was that these athletes were not disabled, they were superabled. The Olympics is where heroes are made. The Paralympics is where heroes come.” Joey Reiman.
A player is not affected by injury or illnesses because he is brave. Rather injury or illnesses makes her or him stronger. An injury may also cause them to view their body as something to fight against. It’s reasonable that they play through injuries; they have everything riding on their athletic abilities. As a result, if the injury is something that won’t end their career, they will risk their health for the reward.
One such case has been that of Bhatinda born hockey, volleyball player and athlete – Late Jasbir Singh Mann, known as Jass Mann or Bholla, who beat extraordinary odds to become a Canadian national team member for Para Olympics. Not many would know that he is the elder brother of famous Punjabi singers Harbhajan Mann and Gursewak Mann. His mom passed away when he was in ninth grade.The family shifted to Canada when he was in 12th grade. Hardly had he started his life in the greener pastures when an unfortunate car accident occurred while he was travelling along with his friend. His friend who was on the driver’s seat died on spot and Jass was injured. NOT ONLY DID Jass lose a friend, but also his arm. Ultimately his left arm had to be amputated. After regaining control of his life after 8th April, 1983, Mann had to start afresh, back to learning basics like tying his shoes with one hand and finding the balance to make his throw. But an Athlete does not have limits, he pushes all limits.
He discovered that ,’’ Either you do it or you sit down and cry about it or you learn to make it happen.’’ Jass accepted a try-out invitation from Canadian Amputee Association. That helped him re-build his self esteem. There was no looking back. Infact, the only way was forward! He started running within all of one year of his accident. Sports became good therapy for Jass. In his own words ‘’you have to start to regain your self confidence and to become the person you were before the accident.” You lose some, you gain some. His wife Bhavna Mann, who he always referred to as his rock, entered his life at just the right time. Despite Jass’s handicap, Bhavna married him, stood by him and always encouraged him. It is her unconditional support along with his tenacity that goaded him on.
In one of the Bio-annual Canadian Forester’s games in Richmond he was a torch bearer as he won gold medals in both Shot put and Discuss Throw events and was named ‘Rookie of the Meet’. Thereafter, he participated in para Olympics games every year as a member of national team. He played volleyball along with athletics.
Jasbir Mann always led an active life, be it his job, taking care of his family, sports. When he was in India in 2011 for a holiday, he was detected with cancer. Once a fighter, always a fighter! He bravely and courageously fought this battle too.
Infact, Jass Mann did Grouse Grind (The Grouse Grind is Vancouver’s most used trail and is known to be arduously challenging; requiring physical strength and endurance in order to make it to the top) in 2012 when he was fighting with cancer. If you have health issues, if you are not in a good shape, this is not a good way up the mountain but he did it. He never cribbed or sounded low that he was passing through such a tough phase.
I remember when I met him in 2012 in Canada, he sounded brave and infact, came to visit us with his family right after his Chemotherapy. Finally this hero passed away on 8th June, 2013 in Canada leaving behind his wife and two small boys.
This story is close to my heart as he was my classmate in St.Joseph’s Convent School Bhatinda.We all knew him to be an all rounder player. I’ve seen him through all phases, in school, after his accident, after cancer, but he was always strong, smiling and positive. Such humans are rare. God bless his soul. He has set an example for others not to bow before troubles and illnesses.
Story by Opinder Kaur Sekhon
Master Athlete Chandigarh