A national-level swimmer Gopal Prasad, who has won a number of medals and accolades, is now working at a small tea shop in Patna to support his family. Running a stall named ‘National Swimmer Tea Stall’ in Nayatola, Prasad is yet another glaring example of how the state treats its sportsmen.
Prasad, who had dreamt of becoming an international swimmer and make India proud, now teaches kids how to swim in the Ganges. He represented Bihar way back in 1987 in an event held in Kolkata, following which he made a name for himself by excelling in the national championships that were held in Kerala in 1988 and 1989. He also won the 100 metres backstroke event in Danapur in 1988, but his dreams failed to take flight thereafter. He applied for a job under the sports quota in the Postal Department, but did not bag the job.
His sons Sunny and Sonu Kumar too were avid swimmers, but left the sport after seeing the deplorable sports system in Bihar.
On being asked why Prasad has named his stall as ‘National Swimmer Tea Stall’, he replied and told ANI that it helps in highlighting the sorry conditions of sports stars from humble backgrounds, who only wish to bring laurels for the tricolour.
The news has been picked up on social media, with many users urging the Sports Minister of the country Kiren Rijiju to secure his future and the future of the other athletes who have fallen off the radar.
“@KirenRijiju he deserves more respect than political leaders, kindly take this matter more seriously as we are going to loose another two talented swimmers,” was one tweet, where he requested Rijiju to ensure that Prasad’s sons do not give up on their dreams.
“Dear Minister @KirenRijiju Ji, please help the family if possible,” tweeted another user.
The news of former medal-winning athletes now sunk deep in poverty is not new in India, and it is high time the politicians and administrators stop running after power and focus on securing the future of the sportsmen, who sacrifice their youth to do India proud. If not, they will have no incentive to risk their lives for an doubtful future, and India’s hopes of becoming a successful nation in the Olympics will remain just a far-fetched dream.