Meet Athletes From Rural Hinterland Who Brought Laurels To India at Asian Games
So far, in the medal tally at the Asian Games 2023, a total of 86 medals have been bagged by Indian sportspersons. Out of these, many athletes belong to the rural areas who have had bare minimum means to script their success.
गाँव कनेक्शन 5 Oct 2023 3:10 PM GMT
Amongst the 86 medals won by the Indian athletes in the ongoing Asian Games, there are many players participating in the track and field sports who belong to humble families living in the country's rural areas.
So far, the story of Ram Baboo, a havildar serving in the Indian Army is most inspiring. Baboo belongs to a landless family from Uttar Pradesh’s Sonbhadra district who has worked as a daily wage labourer and a waiter to make ends meet. He is native to the Bahuara village which falls in the Robertsganj sub division.
Yesterday, on October 4, he won a bronze medal for India in the 35 kilometres long race-walk event. Baboo’s father works as a daily wage farm labourer to earn a livelihood.
Meanwhile, about 500 kilometres away from Baboo’s village, 31-year-old Annu Rani and 28-year-old Parul Chaudhary from Meerut district bagged gold medals on September 31 for javelin throw and 5,000 metres race.
Both Rani and Chaudhary began their athletic journey by practising in the sugarcane fields which are abundantly found in the sugarcane cultivating belt in western Uttar Pradesh.
Rani hails from Bahadurpur village which is situated at a distance of about 50 kilometres from Meerut city. It was initially difficult for her to convince her father to pursue a career in sports as her elder brother was already an aspiring athlete.
Amarpal Singh, Rani’s father, told the press that it was because he was a humble farmer and it was difficult for him to let another child become an athlete. Rani has become the first Indian woman athlete to win a gold medal at the Asian Games.
“I have two sons and three daughters. My elder son Upendra was already trying his luck at sports when Annu also developed an interest in bhaala phek [Javelin Throw]. It was Upendra who sensed that his sister had a natural talent for the sport. But sending my daughter to far flung cities to compete and practise was a remote prospect,” the father said.
“I wondered if I could afford her training and nutritional requirements. It was difficult for me to overcome these challenges. Upendra, her brother, used to secretly train his sister Annu in my sugarcane fields early in the morning. That is how it all started. But I am very happy that my bitiya [daughter] has made this country proud,” he added.
Meanwhile, about 25 kilometres away from Rani’s village, Parul Chaudhary was also chartering her own course on the trails along the sugarcane fields. The 28-year-old began her athletic journey by winning an 800 metres race at a competition in her school in 2011.
It was that victory which got her father thinking about the athletic potential in his child. “My father insisted that I should go on morning runs in the fields. Little did I realise that my father’s insistence would pave the way for me to win this gold medal,” Chaudhary was quoted. In 2015, Chaudhary got a job in Western Railway in Mumbai. Chaudhary used to work as a ticket examiner at Grant Road railway station. She moved into the city of dreams along with her mother who came to help her settle.
“I had heard that if you do well in sports, you could get a good job. That was my main aim. Frankly, my plan was to get the job and then quit the sport. I never had any major ambitions but I was motivated by my friends and mentors to continue playing. In 2016, I resumed ,” Parul says.
Meanwhile, Tajinderpal Singh Toor, a shot put thrower from Punjab’s Khosa Pando village won a gold medal in the games on October 2. He hails from a family of farmers, and he switched from cricket to shot put at the insistence of his father.
Avinash Sable won a silver medal in steeplechase in the men's 5,000 metres on October 4. He belongs to a family of farmers in Mandwa village in Maharashtra’s Beed district.
From age six, he would run six kilometres distance between his home and his school as there was no transport facility in his village.
After completing 12th grade, he was selected as a sepoy in the 5 Mahar Regiment of Indian Army and has served at the Siachen Glacier, in the the deserts of Rajasthan followed by Sikkim from 2015. He participated in inter-army cross country running in 2015 at the insistence of his colleagues before switching to steeplechase under trainer Amrish Kumar.