SHARDUL VIHAN, 15, UP
Shardul Vihan (15) became the youngest Indian shooter to win a silver medal at the Asian Games after he finished second in the men’s double trap. He would wake up at 4 am everyday so as to reach the shooting range 100 km away in Delhi. Vihan was only nine when he decided to take up shooting. But he had to wait for three years before he could start shooting.
The prodigy told PTI that Indian coach Mansher Singh gave hima timely advice the previous evening. “Sir ne bola, kal sab tere se badi umarke honge. Chad ke khelna (all other competitors will be a lot older to you,just shoot fearlessly and they will be wary of you). I just did that.”
In 2017, he amassed four National titles and the cherry on the cake was a medal at the ISSF Junior World Cup in Germany.
VISMAYA KOROTH, 21, KERALA
The quartet of Hima Das, MR Poovamma, Saritaben Gayakwad and Vismaya Velluva Koroth ran 3 minute and 28.72 seconds to claim the gold for country in the 2018 Asian Games 4x400 m relay. At the time of her selection to the quartet for, Vismaya was called the ‘weakest link’. “I just wanted to make sure that I didn't let the team down," Vismaya was quoted as saying by the ESPN. “So I just ran my hardest until I got to the finish line.”
“I’m not as good as the other runners. Poovamma didi has so much experience, Hima has won so many medals and runs so fast. I’m nothing like that,” the self-effacing 21-year-old sprinter was quoted as saying by ESPN before she made her first international debut at Asian Games.
Daughter of a construction worker from Kannur, Kerala, Vismaya had not won anything at an international level previously. All she had was a silver medal at the National Inter-Universities in the relay. Unsurprisingly, prior to the race, Vismaya was almost impossible to google.
SWAPNA BARMAN, 21, WEST BENGAL
From Jalpaiguri to Jakarta, the journey of 21-year-old Swapna Barman— who won a gold medal in Women’s Heptathlon—was never quite smooth. She has coped with ill-fitting shoes, a disc bulge, injuries to her knee and ankle without losing focus on her target. “We are athletes. We are prone to injuries. It happens. We have to overcome injuries. Yeh aadat ho gaya (I am used to it),” she said after her win despite a severe toothache that forced her to compete with a bandaged jaw.
Her father used to pedal a tri-wheeler until he suffered a cerebral attack and got bed-ridden seven years ago. It was difficult for her mother to run the household, forcing Swapna to work as daily wage labourer at a tea garden to eke out a living for the family
NEERAJ CHOPRA, 20, HARYANA
After he won a gold in Men's Javelin Throw at Asian games, he told the media that his formal education was disturbed after class IX.
The flag-bearer for India at the opening ceremony, Neeraj Chopra hails from Panipat. “Where I lived, I had to practice on the road. I left home when I was 14, owing to lack of facilities. My formal education was disturbed after class 9. My dream is to see the time when villagers need not shift to a city the way I shifted to Panchkula,” says Neeraj, a Junior Commissioned Officer in the Indian Army with the rank of Naib Subedar since 2016.
DHARUN AYYASAMY, 21, TAMIL NADU
Dharun Ayyasamy dedicated his Asian games silver medal in 400m hurdles to his stoical mother. He was fourth till the 300m mark but dramatically surged past two competitors in the last 100m stretch to cross the finishing line in 48.96 seconds, his personal best.
Having lost his father at the age of eight, he was raised by his mother single-handedly with the Rs 14,000 per month she earned as a teacher.
“Though I am very happy with my performance, I was aiming for gold. But I had to perform with a sprain in my leg,” he told the media, with a broad smile.
The 21-year-old from Tamil Nadu believes that his recent success might help him secure a decent job and bring some financial security to his family.
SUDHA SINGH, 32, UP
“My file for the job through sports quota has been there since 2014. It’s better late than never,” Sudha told news agency PTI over phone from Indonesia, reacting to the announcement of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath offering her a job of a gazetted officer after she won a silver in women’s 3000m steeplechase in the Asian Games.
Hailing from Rae Bareli, lack of resources didn’t hinder her passion for sports. She had earlier won gold and silver in Asian Games in 2010. She also participated in the Olympics and has won medals in Asian Championships and World Championships. The Arjun Award winning sportsperson says that she wants to work in the Sports Department of the state. “I am eligible for becoming a Deputy Director in the sports department,” she said.
DUTEE CHAND, 22, ODISHA
She won the silver in women's 100m, but missed the gold by a whisker. She didn’t give in to despair after being dropped from the Commonwealth Games at the last minute in 2014, after she failed hyperandrogenism test. She doubled her resolve and kept pushing herself to train even harder. Her grit paid off and she became the first since PT Usha to win a silver medal in 100m at Asian Games.
Even the Sports Authority of India didn’t allow her training facility back then. “It was the darkest moment of my life,” she told the media, recalling the “dark phase” of her life in her moment of glory. Finally, when she was allowed in the national camp in 2015, she had only Rs 500 with her .
SAURABH CHAUDHARY, 16, UP
I like farming. We don’t get much time off from training but whenever I do, I go back to my village (Kalina) and help my father,” said Saurabh Chaudhary disarmingly, after winning the gold in shooting (10m Air Pistol).
Son of a farmer based in Kalina Village in Meerut, Chaudhary, competing in his first senior event, impressed everyone with his exceptional maturity and calmness beyond his age to snatch the lead from 2010 World Champion Tomoyuki Matsuda on the penultimate shot in the 24-shot final.
He learnt the tricks of the trade at Amit Sheoran’s academy at Benoli near Baghpat, 53 kilometers from Meerut. Whenever he is home, he helps his father in farming.
SARITA GAYAKWAD, 24, GUJARAT
From walking barefoot in her village to participate in women's 4X400 relay team that won the Gold at Jakarta on Thursday, Sarita Gayakwad’s story is as inspiring as it gets. The Asian Games gold medalist hails from Karadi Amba village in Dangs district, parts of which still lack regular electricity and drinking water supply. Daughter of a farm labourer, Sarita grew up in poverty like thousands of other children in the area. It was a desire to buy a pressure cooker for her mother that prompted her to become an athlete and win a cash prize in a local competition. After winning an Asian Gold medal now, her next ambition is to build a house for her parents, who have lived in a thatched hut for long. Sarita currently works in Income Tax department, the job coming her way, thanks to her sprinting ability and endurance.
TAJINDERPAL SINGH TOOR, 23, PUNJAB
Tajinderpal Singh Toor’s father was undergoing treatment for cancer back home in Punjab when he won a gold medal in shot put, setting a new Asian Games record as he threw the iron ball to 20.75 m. The six-year old mark was 20.69 m. Tajinderpal was inspired by his father Karam Singh Toor to pursue his passion. Karam Singh himself was a sportsperson and his exploits in Rural Olympics at Qila Raipur and other local competitions in Punjab, where he won several medals, earned him the sobriquet of ‘hero’. Now, son Tajinderpal is the new ‘Hero’ in their village Khosa Pando in Moga.
ARPINDER SINGH, 25, PUNJAB
Arpinder Singh who won the gold in Men's Triple Jump owes everything to his father Jagbir Singh. His father, who lives near Amritsar, arranged for a loan of Rs 5 lakh to ensure that his son’s training was not interrupted before he became an international athlete. A retired Havildar from the Army, Jagbir found his monthly pension of Rs 12,000 too little to help his son realise his dreams. He had to mortgage his one-and-a-half-acre plot of land and jewellery to secure the loan. Arpinder earlier had won a bronze medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
HIMA DAS, 18, ASSAM
Before being hailed as the golden girl and the goddess of speed and clinching a Gold while leading the Indian women’s team in 4×400 m relay in Asian Games, the doughty 18-year-old sprinter had to run through mud for several years.
She was interested in sports since childhood and would regularly play football with local boys in the mud pits next to her father’s paddy fields. As there was no running track in her village, she had to practice on a muddy football field.
The eldest of six siblings, Hima started assisting her father in growing paddy on their farm at the age of 12. At Dhing Navodaya Vidyalaya, her teacher Samsul Haque advised her to meet a sports teacher named Gauri Shankar Roy in Nagaon for a better future. A formal training of only 15 months turned her into a world champion. Hima hogged headlines last month as well after she became the first Indian to win a 400m gold at the IAAF World Under-20 Athletic Championships by clocking a speed of speed of 51.46s in Finland.