Mangaluru, April 06, 2015: Norbert D’Souza was 12 years old in 1964. He hijacked his father’s old bicycle to participate in a 23-km cycling race from BC Road to Mangaluru. He won the contest without any foot wear even. That was the day he says then PM Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru passed away. Norbert later went on to win several championships at the district, state and even national levels.
He won the State-level cycling championship and covered a distance of 44 miles in just two hours, 10 minutes and 25 seconds in 1974. "The nearest competitor was five miles behind me when I finished the race," he said and smiled, adding that he used his ordinary bicycle for the contests.
Norbert was also the Mumbai-Khandala (Pune) cycling champion for three consecutive years in the ’70s. In 1970, he finished third in the national-level championship in Haryana, Norbert tried to keep up in his ordinary bicycle and all the other contestants rode gear bicycles. He also missed a chance in the Asian Games in 1974 as he did not have a bicycle of his own to participate in the coaching camp in Haryana.
His memorable achievement was in 1977 at a rally, when he covered 5,000 km - from Mangaluru to Delhi and back - in just 11 days and one hour. The previous record was held by a German with 12 days and two hours. "The rally was organised by Fieldstar Company (a cycle manufacturing company) with a jeep following me Delhi to and fro." he said. Those in the jeep found it difficult to drive behind him as he rode for 16 to 18 hours or more a day, he said. His passion for cycling came to a sad abrupt end when he met with an accident in 1977 that left him with multiple fractures. He then continued a profession in tailoring and even worked in Chicago (US) for two years as a tailor 1990 and 1992. Even as he grew old, his passion for cycling lay dormant within him. Recalling his early life, he says there were times when he faced severe wants.
His old dreams to own the best bicycles was realised when he bought two in May 2010. One was the US-made Trek Madone 5.2 racing cycle which cost him Rs 2.3 lakh, along with additional costs, including the mechanic’s travel cost who flew to Mangaluru from Mumbai to assemble it. The bicycle made of carbon fibre weighs just six kg. The second cycle is also by Trek, but made in China, for which he paid Rs 1.5 lakh.
A second shock shattered D’Souza when he suffered a stroke on June 18, 2011, a year after he bought the bicycles. Now, D’Souza plans to donate both his bicycles (with all the additional kits), valued at over Rs 4.5 lakh. His only condition being "the person should be a promising cyclist from a poor background, who can’t afford to buy such bicycles." Indeed this sportsman is of a high caliber.