Alexi Grewal was bullied because of his Indian origin. He was banned a week before he was to participate in Olympic Games. But he still remains the only cyclist from the US to win Olympic gold in the men's road race event, at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. The 60-year-old son of a Punjabi immigrant, however, does not have the prize possession with him.
Once he was visiting India from the US. He was carrying his medal to show his friends in India. But his bag got stolen from the New Jersey airport and he had not heard about the medal ever since. The Colorado-born rider is married to Manjeet Bhalla who stays in Madhya Pradesh.
In 1984, Grewal edged past the crowd-favourite Canada's Steve Bauer in a dramatic final-lap showdown to win the gold medal in Olympics. Grewal had a very tumultuous journey as a cyclist. His father Jasjit Singh Grewal and mother Martha Huber Grewal owned a bike store in Aspen, Colorado. Their sons, Alexi and his younger brothers Rishi and Ranjeet took up the sport and his house would become a cyclists' hub.
Alexi started cycling at the age of 12 as his father's bike shop was 15 km from their home. He would leave for the shop earlier in a cycle that his father had given him. When he turned 18, he decided not to college and opted for cycling. Before he got into the USA senior team, Alexi would often work as a construction labourer in winters to earn money to compete in Europe.
In 1984, Grewal edged past the crowd-favourite Canada's Steve Bauer in a dramatic final-lap showdown (Source: Pink Lightning 2014)
He made the American third team in 1981 before making it to the first team in 1983 to compete against men like Phinney, Thurlow Rogers and seven-time Tour De France participant Ron Keifel. The trio trained under US coach Eddie Borysewicz with whom Grewal had a bad relationship. A week before the race in Olympics, Alexi was even banned for taking a banned substance. "I am a perennial asthma patient since my childhood. A couple of weeks before the race, a Chinese woman offered me a tablet saying that I would cure my asthma. So just to respect her I took that and the next thing I knew was that I was banned. My coach tried to make sure that I was not allowed to participate in the Olympics. But somehow, I did and went on to win the gold," he told to TOI.
He joined the US team just 20 minutes before the race and did not stay in the Olympic Village. Winning the gold medal brought mixed reactions for Alexi. While most US cyclists termed him selfish for breaking the group, his family and friends were proud.
He also had stints with Panasonic and 7-Eleven, which saw Alexi competing in the Tour de France in 1986. However, he had an argument with a team-mate and later spitted at a race cameraman for obstructing him. As a result, he was dropped by 7-Eleven.
Alexi competed for smaller teams before ending his professional career in 1993. He made a comeback at the age of 50 when he competed in the Gran Fondo-style gravel event in Colorado, where he finished fourth out of 125 riders, and competed for different teams for two years.