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Defying Stereotypes, Age and Officials: India’s Bridge Heroes

With an average age of 60, how India’s bridge team broke stereotypes and won medals at the Asian Games.

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India sent a 24-member bridge team to the 2018 Asian Games as the sport made its debut at the multi-discipline event. With an average age of 60 in the squad, the bridge players of India pulled off a big haul of three medals, including a gold in the men’s pairs event.

All this by a sport that wasn't even included in the first list of India’s contingent announced for the Games.

‘The IOA people didn't really know what they were in for because they saw a bunch of really old people none of whom fit the image of a ‘typical athlete’. They weren’t sure why we were there or if we were going to win a medal or two, or anything,’ Bridge Federation of India official Nirmal Rajagopalan said as the players celebrated their achievement on their return home to India.

60-year-old Pranab Bardhan and his 56-year-old partner Shibnath De Sarkar clinched the gold on the final day of competition in Indonesia, helping take India’s gold medal tally to 15, making it the country’s most successful outing at the event.

Back home after his big win, 60-year-old Asian Games gold medallist Pranab Bardhan has now offered free tutorials to do his bit for the card sport in the country.

"I want to give back to bridge, I have a lot to give back. I want to help the children, youngsters play this sport. I am going to go back home and tell everyone that I am willing to give tips and help out any kid who is interested in this game," Bardhan said.

After emerging victorious and receiving recognition for their efforts, the team now hopes they can bust the myth that bridge is gambling.

‘That’s a very common misunderstanding, a misnomer, call it  what you want. Because people apply a very fallacious logic ‘bridge is cards, cards is gambling, therefore bridge is gambling’. It’s absolutely not, in fact, it is the antithesis of gambling. If you take wild pot-shots like a gambler, you have no chance to succeed or become a very good player. Zero chance. It is all meticulously calculated and is in many ways like chess’ said bronze medallist Jaggy Shivdasani.

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