Sports fields produce great athletes and inspiring tales, but the route to success may be difficult, given the danger of injury and the lack of funding that plagues many prospective stars.
However, in the history of sports in India, there have been some individuals who have defied the odds to provide us with lessons to learn from.
This year’s National Games are no exception, as talented athletes and sportspersons from around the country have wowed us with their performance and resilience.
Here are five 36th National Games medalists that fought tooth and nail for their dreams:
Hinaben had to overcome several obstacles as a child growing up in Vadagam, Aravalli, Gujarat. Her father, Salim Khalifa, became paralysed while she was a baby, forcing her mother, Sugraben, to work as a housekeeper to make ends meet.
Hina would follow her mother and sisters to other houses as a teenager so that they could all maximise the area they worked in and earn enough to support the family.
Even when Hina and her sister Madina began wrestling training, they had to balance school, training, and assisting their mother. They didn’t give up and kept to their plans to make their goal a reality.
Udaivir Singh of Punjab just won the gold medal in men’s solo epee at the 36th National Games in Gandhinagar. He attributes his victory to his father, Jaipal Singh, who had to make several sacrifices in order to provide his son with the greatest fencing instruction possible.
Jaipal, a former Indian boxer and silver medalist at the Asian Games in 1986, spent all of his savings on his son’s training. Udaivir, who has been training in France since 2018, had a monthly expenditure of roughly Rs 2 lakh, which his father could provide till recently.
When he ran out of money, he sold a plot of property in Patiala to pay for his son’s education.
Siva Subramaniam grew up in Chennai and could not afford sports instruction. Then he met Don Wilcox, a former pole vaulter who was teaching a group of poor children for free.
This was a watershed moment in Siva’s life, and he began training with Wilcox, eventually breaking the National Record in his name in 2018.
Coach Wilcox was like a father figure to Siva. Meanwhile, Wilcox envisioned developing the little athlete to become a great pole vaulter.
Fate had other ideas for the strength coach and pupil as they were on their way to fulfilling their aspirations. Coach Wilcox died in 2021 as a result of COVID-19. Siva was taken aback by his untimely death, and he lost interest in his sport.
Gerard, Wilcox’s son, persuaded him to rethink his mind and rediscover his love for the sport when he was on the point of quitting. Gerard, who is hearing and speech challenged and a silver medalist at the Deaflympics (2005 and 2009), carried on his father’s mission by coaching Siva to a National Record after four years at the 36th National Games. Siva dedicated his victory to the memory of his late mentor, Don Wilcox.
Shraddha Gaikwad, the 16-year-old who won gold in women’s skateboarding (street) at the 36th National Games, has a life story that rivals fiction.
Shraddha and her family relocated to Pune from Beed, Maharashtra, in pursuit of better possibilities. Ravindra, her father, started working as a security guard at a Decathlon sports shop.
When Shraddha arrived to serve lunch to her father one day, she noticed a client attempting to ride a skateboard. She was intrigued and tried her hand at it as well. An employee discovered her playing with the skateboard and began giving her some basic instructions.
When she met her now-coach Swapnil Magare, who was doing a skateboarding workshop inside the store, it was a watershed moment in her life.
The store manager gave her her first pair of shoes after saw her riding the board barefoot. In December 2018, she won a bronze medal at the Jugaad International Skateboarding Competition in Bengaluru. She also appeared in the Netflix film ‘Skater Girl,’ which was released in 2021.
Ranju Chingangbam, who won gold in street skateboarding (male) at the 36th National Games, is now a beacon of hope for a small skating community in Manipur. The 17-year-old from Kongkham Leikai in Imphal East had to work odd jobs to keep his ambitions alive.
In Imphal, his father works as a daily wager, while his mother owns a modest roadside shop. They couldn’t afford Ranju’s training costs, so he accepted a painting job to help pay his skating. This paid him between Rs 350 and Rs 400 each day.
Ranju went to the sports facility with one of his pals in 2018 and noticed kids skateboarding. He was immediately captivated.
He spent approximately a year saving enough from the painting job to acquire the equipment.
Ranju also took silver in the Roller Skating Federation of India’s first India Skate Roller Games in Mohali in 2022. (RSFI).