ICON: TAN SRI G. DARSHAN SINGH
By Tony Mariadass
Tan Sri Darshan Singh Gill is a living of example of where passion can take one to great heights.
As a young man, it was by chance that Darshan got involved with cycling.
“Close to my home in Silibin Road, cycling races were held and I used to go and watch. I got interested and volunteered to help in the organisation of the race. This was in the early days of 1970s before I left for London to do my law,” recalled the 67 year-old Darshan.
“At school (Anglo Chinese School –ACS) was active in sports but only represented by class and house in sports.
“But it was cycling which fascinated me and soon I become a member of the Perak Cycling Association,” said he only road the normal bicycle and never was a racing cyclist.
“I was in London from 1971 to 1975 and graduated from the University of London, King’s College with a degree in law and also completed my bar at Lincoln’s Inn at the age of 28. When I returned home, I was asked to become the president of Perak Cycling Association in 1976,” recalled Darshan who is also a member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (UK).
“I had to thank my elder brother, Gurbax Singh for paving the way for me to do law. My father, a temple priest, could only afford to send one of us to further our studies and my brother decided that it was I that should go.”
Darshan on assuming the president’s post started to revamp the association with his enthusiasm to put the association on the right path to progress.
He started organising numerous events and championships and the cycling quality of Perak cyclists improved.
But his most significant contribution was the building of the cycling velodrome called the Rakyat Velodrome in 1989.
“I virtually went begging door to door for funds to build the velodrome and must thank the many generous people. The late Sultan of Perak, Raja Azlan Shah played a key role and was instrumental in seeing the project become a reality.
“It was a tall order to see the project through when it was mooted in the 80s and the foundation stone was laid in December 1986 before it became a reality. We organised numerous fund raising events and the support from the raykat was tremendous. That is why we fitting decided to call it the Raykat’s Velodrome.”
The timber 250 metre track Velodrome was built at a cost of RM3.25 million was officially declared open by Sultan Azlan Shah who was the King at that time.
Darshan had brought the best to plan the Velodrome when he had brought in German architect Ralph Schumann to assist.
In 1989, the SEA Games was held in Malaysia and the track events were held in Ipoh where the national cyclists won four gold medals.
Sadly the velodrome which was the second in Asia then, has now deteriorated and begs to be repaired.
Darshan who was already a Council member Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF) rom 1978, became president in1989 when he surprisingly defeated incumbent and popular Tan Sri Elyas Omar.
Darshan was president from 1989 to 1990 before for his services was named the Life president of MNCF.
As the Asian level, was in the executive board of the Asian Cycling Confederation (ACC) in 1990 and in 1993 he elected as the secretary general. In 1996 before assuming the president’s post in 2001 – the body which regulates cycling in 40 countries in Asia - and held the post for nine years.
He was also the first Malaysian Member of the Board of the International Cycling Union International Cycling Union (UCI).
The inaugural Tour Langkawi was also held in 1996 and Darshan played a led role.
He has brought numerous top level cycling events to Malaysia which include World Cycling championship B in1997, Asian Cycling Championship in 1993, Track World Cup in 2000 and 2001 and the Sultan Azlan Shah Track Asia Cup in 2006, 2007 and 2009.
Darshan was also involved in athletics and was the vice president of the then Malaysian Amateur Athletics Union for a term in the 80s.
In 2010, for all the contributions Darshan had given sports, he was inducted to the Olympic Council of Malaysia Hall of Fame.
Darshan’s last involvement in cycling was when he relinquished the president’s post of the Perak Cycling Federation after 38 years in 2013 but still left behind a legacy when his son, Datuk Amarjit Singh has taken over the post.
Amarjit, a lawyer too, just like his father in both profession and contribution to sports, holds post as a Member of the Complaints and Anti-Doping Commission, International Skateboarding Federation (ISF), Vice President, Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF) and Doping Control Officer, Cycling Anti Doping Foundation (CADF)
Darshan’s other son, Malaysia’s Bhangra ambassador and Goldkartz singer Sukhjit Singh Gill is also a lawyer, becoming the fifth member of his family to turn lawyer in the very same courtroom of the Ipoh High Court.
His other son, Sukhjit’s fellow Goldkartz singer and his brother Manjit and only daughter Ranjit Kaur Gill are also lawyers.
Darshan’s wife, Puan Sri Suveeder Kaur is a housewife.
Darshan being the ever active person he is, he is now involved with extreme sports and is the vice-president of Asian Extreme Sports Federation (AXF), which is the governing body in Asia and also the vice-president of International Skateboarding Federation.
“I wanted to take a rest, but sports is in my blood and when members of the extreme sports who were cycling officials before approached me, I decided to assist,” said Darshan who was roped into the Malaysian Extreme Sports Association (MESA) ten years ago.
Asked if he had any disappointments in association with sports, he simply said: “Each came with its challenges, but I have managed to overcome them to make pleasant memories.
“The toughest challenge was the building of the velodrome and seeing it become a reality was the biggest satisfaction, especially so when it was the people who put it up.
“Having come this far from just being a volunteer for cycling is indeed been a journey I will always cherish.
“And I will continue to contribute to sports as long as my services are required and am physically able to do so.”
Darshan also holds numerous positions in the society and one of which is as the president of Malaysia National Sikhs Movement (GERAKSIKH) which is the national body which organises various public service activities.