LAHORE: Former Olympian Muhammad Ashiq looks daily at the trophies he won in a successful cycling career for Pakistan, decades ago. “Perhaps most people think that I have died,” he laments. “I just recall that I have shaken hands with former Pakistani prime ministers, presidents, chief executives,” says the 81-year-old. “Why and how they all forgot me, I cannot believe.” Ashiq, who competed for Pakistan at the 1960 and the 1964 Olympics, is now a Rickshaw driver in Lahore. He began his sporting career as a boxer, switching to cycling in the 1950s when his wife complained about his injuries. He competed in Rome in 1960 and Tokyo in 1964.Although he won no silver wear, he was a national hero for Pakistan. “I was so happy I considered myself lucky to represent Pakistan in the Olympics,” he says. However, the end of his cycling career presented miserable circumstances. He took a PR job but left it for health reasons in 1977. He briefly drove a taxi and then a van before bouncing around several other small business ideas. However, for the last six years, he has been reduced to driving a rickshaw, carrying low-income passengers around Lahore’s crowded streets. He lives in a 450-square-foot house on which he owes more than Rs1 million; a near-insurmountable amount provided that his rickshaw salary is roughly Rs400 per day. His wife has passed away. His four children do not live with him and he does not want to be dependent on them. He used to hang his medals in his rickshaw, but not anymore. Instead, quote by former US President Calvin Coolidge has been inscribed on the canopy: “Nations and states who forget their heroes can never be prosperous.” When passengers ask him about the message, he tells them his story using it as a cautionary tale for the poor in particular, whom he warns not to participate in sports. His wife and four children begged him over the years to stop bemoaning his losses. “Once my wife started weeping, I asked her why, she said she was just worried about my health. She told me to be happy all the time and forget those who forgot us. I said okay, and she became happy for a while. And after some period, she died.” That was two years ago. Now he too prays for death. “I pray to meet my beloved wife in heaven. I think it is better to avoid this pathetic situation I have endured,” he says.