He was told he may never walk again, but Havant hockey star Sandeep Singh defied all the odds to reach the very pinnacle of his sport once again.
The Indian player, who arrived at Barncroft Way in the summer, was left paralysed and needing a wheelchair after accidentally being shot in the hip in his homeland back in 2006.
Many thought he would never recover but, through sheer grit and determination, Singh returned to become the captain of his country and was instrumental in helping them reach the Olympics for the first time in eight years at London 2012.
Prior to the freak shooting accident which damaged his spine, the 28-year-old was one of the most promising hockey players in the world and was well known for his deadly drag-flicks.
He went to the 2004 Olympics in Athens as an 18-year-old, and in the same year was nominated for the Indian Hockey Federation young player of the year award.
Then, on August 22, 2006, his world was shattered when a gun accidentally went off while he was on a train to join up with the national team.
‘After my incident everyone thought I was gone and that I couldn’t get back to playing,’ admitted Singh.
‘I was in ICU and the doctors said they weren’t sure if I could walk again.
‘They said: “You can’t play hockey. If you try, maybe you can walk, but we can’t even be sure of that because of your injury.
‘Nobody has recovered from that kind of spinal injury.
‘You can’t walk and you can’t eat properly because if you eat heavy food your stomach can’t digest it.
‘You can’t sleep properly because you can’t turn on the bed.
‘I was paralysed and in a wheelchair, but with the prayers of family, friends and fans I came back on to the field.
‘Normally, I don’t feel any mental stress but that one-and-a-half years out of the team was a really hard time for me.
‘But I thought: “I have to play hockey again”. I didn’t have anything else on my mind.
‘I just knew I had to be back on the field. And I was so glad to be playing hockey again.’
Remarkably, Singh captained India to the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup just three years later, winning the man-of-the-match award and finishing as the tournament’s top goalscorer.
In 2010 he received the prestigious Arjuna Award, which recognises outstanding achievements of sportsmen and women in India.
With 16 goals, Singh was also the leading goalscorer in the London 2012 qualifiers.
But eight years on from being shot, he still feels the after-effects of his injury.
‘The injury will be bad in the future because of my muscles,’ said Singh.
‘There are two back muscles in the spine but I only have one.
‘I’m training to develop the other muscle but the doctor said I need to develop more power.
‘If I train really hard or in cold weather, my back gets really stiff.
‘At the 2012 Olympics I played the whole time with a stiff back and it was difficult for me.
‘Painkillers don’t help. There are a lot of side effects on the body and the doctor told me to avoid them otherwise they will kill me in the future.’
The ace drag-flicker is fit and healthy at the moment, though, and has been a sensation at Havant this season, scoring 17 goals already this term.
Singh added: ‘I’m happy because I’m feeling perfect at the moment.’
The player’s inspirational story will be made into a Bollywood film next year, with actress Chitrangada Singh producing the biopic.