Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the success stories of Indian athletes from humble backgrounds ahead of the Tokyo Olympics 2020. He talked about the struggles of several athletes before making it big in the international arena in his monthly radio show, 'Mann ki Baat.' A record 115 athletes have qualified for the games from India and many of them had started from small shanty households and eventually made it to the riches of the sporting world. We take a look at the five inspiring stories from the Indian Olympic contingent for Tokyo Olympics.
Archer Pravin Jadhav started with Bamboo Sticks
The 2019 World Championships Men's Team Recurve silver Medallist started as an 800m sprinter when he was young. However, Jadhav suffered from gross malnourishment and switched to archery. He had even fainted on several occasions during his training days in the National Youth Championships.
Jadhav was born in a family of daily wage labourers and lived with his joint family in a shack near a drain in Maharashtra's Satara district.
His school teacher helped him out with his training and kit expenses as he kept his fight against poverty alive. He initially had started with bamboo scrapes to use them as bow and arrows and soon entered the services in the Army, which eventually allowed him to afford his own equipment.
Neha Goyal escaped a violent home for Hockey
Neha Goyal escaped a toxic home to become an attacker who can swiftly move past defences for the Indian Women's Hockey team. Goyal lived in a shanty near a drain as well in Sonepat, Haryana. While her mother worked as a daily wage labourer in a Cycle factory, her father did not had a job and would often return home, drunk and cause violence in the small hut.
Goyal's mother sent her to play Hockey thinking that the Hockey field is safer than their home. She was enrolled at a modest setup run by Arjuna Awardee and 2002 Commonwealth Games Gold Medallist Pritam Siwaich. Siwaich managed to provide two full meals every day to Goyal, who eventually broke into the National Team and was part of the Silver-medal campaign at the 2018 Asian Games.
Priyanka Goswami jumped into racewalking to get bags
Priyanka Goswami started out with Gymnastics in school in Meerut.
However, what interested her was that the sprinters used to get bags and medals as awards in school, and she wanted those bags. Goswami subsequently switched to long races. She will represent India in the Tokyo Olympics in the 20km race walk.
Goswami also comes from a financially humble background. Her father, who is a bus conductor is suspended from his job due to the pandemic while her younger brother works in a private company. Goswami also aspires to be a model one day.
Bhavani Devi's mother had to pawn jewellery for fencing
Devi's first major triumph was earned in the 2014 Asian Fencing Championship where she struck silver. She has also won laurels in the Commonwealth and Asian Championships. She is the first-ever Indian fencer to have qualified for the Olympic games with her Tokyo Olympics 2020 qualification.
Manish Kaushik rose from a farmer to an Army Boxer
Manish Kaushik picked up boxing to get away from the mundane rural life in Haryana. He used to help his family in farming and growing wheat and paddy. The success of Vijender Singh, Jitender Singh and Dinesh Kumar made the sport a hot property in Haryana and he quickly switched into it.
However, his Boxing career was marred by the Indian Boxing Federation derecognised by the World Body, leaving the Indian Boxers in limbo. Kaushik continued to train despite uncertainty and rose to a silver medal finish in the 2018 Commonwealth games. He also won a Bronze in the 2019 World Championships. Kaushik currently is a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) in the Indian Army and will represent India in the lightweight category.