From children of auto rickshaw driver to those born to farmer and vegetable vendor parents, many of the Khelo India School Games (KISG) participants were from humble background but they beat all odds to grab the spotlight and showcase their talent.
Out of the 3507 participants in the sports ministry's ambitious KISG, which concluded recently, there emerged multiple success stories of the children who have struggled in life but were determined to succeed.
One such talented boy was Bhaktaram Desti who hails from the Ganjam district in Odisha far removed from the luxuries and the hustle and bustle of city life. The 15-year-old's farmer parents eke out a living off a piece of land they have while upholding their tribal ancestry proudly.
"There are very few opportunities for people coming from that part of the country. But he manages to balance his studies and training because the sports hostel and the government school where he studies are close by," Desti's coach Sita Jena said.
Desti won a gold medal in the weightlifting competition.
Manipur's Nongbam Khomba Singh, the son of a wall painter, hails from a remote village about 100km from the state capital, Imphal. The eldest of three siblings, Khomba Singh is the only boxer in his family. The 17-year-old bagged the silver medal in the 60kg class boxing category.
"My father is a painter. He has never been a sportsperson himself but has always supported me. Whatever I am today is because of my father and my coach Shyam Chandra sir," Khomba said.
Vikas Yadav and Arpit Yadav participated in the javelin throw event. Vikas hails from Kaulapur, Bhadohi district. Arpit, who is the son of a farmer, has six siblings and meeting the daily needs was always a tough job for his parents.
When Vikas started, he used to do practice with makeshift javelins made from wood and aluminium. Arpit, who hails from Mau in Allahabad district, had to wait endlessly for his seniors to hand him down discarded javelins, which he used for practice.
"My parents used to question why I am spending so much time making a javelin when I should have been sleeping. People who didn't know me would mock me for wasting time," said Vikas.
"People have always heckled and tried to pull me down by saying that nothing is going to change no matter how much effort I put in. Its better to study than play. Nobody has ever told me to play," Arpit said.
Both Vikas and Arpit fought the odds and emerged victorious as they claimed gold and bronze medals respectively in the javelin throw event.
Konsam Ormila Devi, who took part in the girls' 44kg category weightlifting, comes from a humble background. Ormila lives in Khongjom, a small village 35km outside of Manipur's capital city of Imphal.
Ormila has been been competing at the highest levels in the junior category while worrying about her mother who is a vegetable vendor and about an ailing father back home but that does not stop her from giving her best.
"Her mother is a vegetable vendor in Khongjom, and her father is very ill. Her cousin used to play football. That is how I discovered her at the SAI academy, where I persuaded her to take up weightlifting," said Ormila's coach Bobo Singh, who was a former coach at the Sports Authority of India center in the state.
"I study in the ninth standard, and the school where I come from doesn't have many facilities for sports, so I have to train at the academy," Ormila explains.
Ormila picked up the gold medal in the girls' 44kg weightlifting contest.
Pint-sized, Ancy Sojan could not wait to call her father and coach -- both auto rickshaw drivers in the suburbs of Thrissur in Kerala -- to share her joy of winning double medals in the athletics competition. The 16-year-old won the gold in long jump and silver in the 200m run.
Arshad, one of the four grappler sons of a milkman and a housewife, beat the odds to win a gold medal in the 46kg Greco-Roman class final.
"It's about getting better. I want to win an Olympic gold one day. So instead of letting the pressure get to me, I focus all my energy on fighting. The Khelo India scholarship will help me in my training. I have to go to the mat and do my best," said Arshad.
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