Manish Singh Rawat represented India in race walking in a 20-km walk event at Rio Olympic 2016, finishing at the 13th position with a recorded timing of 1:21:21. Indian Media is going gaga over PV Sindhu and Sakshi, who have won medals for India, and undoubtedly they deserve all the appreciation they are getting, but this guy does have a story, a story that needs to be heard. How many people have we met in our Life who just follow their passion blindly come what may, really few right! And let me complicate the situation even more, what if you are told that you have to survive with your whole family at 1500Rs. per month, what then, In today’s time when for just watching a movie at the Theatre you need to spend 1500+ , in such times Manish has not only not only survived, but has also supported his family by doing part-time Jobs.
On 5th May, 1991, this 25-year old athlete was born in Chamoli, a small district in Uttrakhand District of India. According to his Interviews and talks, He was never trained for this particular sport. In fact he didn’t even knew much about the sport. His home was 7kms from the school, so he had to walk down everyday there and come back, and that is where this all started. He expresses that walking is an Integral part of Uttrakhand’s culture, and that is the reason those people are more fitter than rest of the country.
Race-walking is actually a really serious sport. But if you see in India, no one mostly knows about it. This is quite a debatable topic of why people here don’t take sports like this one seriously. Well here, if you are not an Engineer or in Medical field than probably you are wasting your important time of life. And if you are in Sports and you are not seen on TV winning medals for the country, then you are not even a sportsperson, that’s the mentality of the people here. Here people are judged upon by their achievements and not by their Hard work or passion for their field.
In India, if a person seriously wants to perceive his sports dreams it’s never easy. If you are not the Best, then you end up being a Nobody here. You are left with big financial debts and unlike your fellow schoolmates you don’t even have a degree to apply for a Job. Sports is not recognized here, except Cricket. Cricket , in true sense unites this country, But then isn’t is completely discriminating to ignore all other sports. Even after doing there best, the sportsman in games like Hockey, swimming, boxing, athletics, golf, and such others don’t get recognition, that’s a sad part. Plus our government doesn’t even spend much on sports.
The United Kingdom recently declared that it costs them £5.5 million per medal winner; that’s the kind of investment required to develop an Olympic champion. In India, funds are scarce and the limited amount of money is distributed among the entire contingent. Manish Singh is among all thus unsung heroes who have worked hard for their country, in spite of all the hard-hitting challenges and no support or coaches like everyone else, still managed to end up at the 13th position ahead of some of the best race walkers in the world. 2012 London Games silver medalist Erick Barrondo of Guatemala was one of the participants, and the ‘Pahari’ overtook him quite easily. He registered a final timing of 1:21:21, less than a minute behind the bronze medalist.
While studying in a government school in his district, he admits that not much importance was given to studies, most of the people spend there time playing. Cricket was the game he always used to enjoy. When he was in 10th std, he lost his father, with no income for his family, 1500Rs. was his father’s pension which they used to get every month. To make the ends meet, he used to work in a small restaurant named “Krishna” in Badrinath, and did dish washing and later even worked in farm and drove tractors. All the money he got he used to spend for his family, with only minor left for his training. And Now when he actually started training for race-walking, waking up at 4pm in the morning, getting ready, people used to make fun of him, laugh at him, made his videos and mocked him. Hardly anyone motivated him for this. That is a worst a person can go through i feel. In any other country, such people are funded and motivated by the officials, so that they can make the nation proud, but the situation as we all know in India is not so warming.
There came a phase in his life, when he had applied for a state-level job through sports-quota , even after being a national level medal winner, his application was rejected, and that left him in one of the most financially unstable states, so much that he decided to quit the sport so that he could support his family.With four brothers , the times were getting more and more difficult. When he told his coach about his decision, his coach convinced him not to take such a step and kept him motivated throughout. It was because of him that he held on, or else we would have never known Manish.
After years of hard work, struggle and patience, he finally managed to represent his country at the Olympics. And what happened to him there was tragic. Not many of the people know that a day prior to his Rio event, Manish injured his knee. But instead of complaining he went to his coach and asked him to increase his repetitions so that he could get used to the pain. He said in an Interview, “If I got what I’m getting now four years back, I would be looking at a medal in Rio; now I have to plan for four years later. I know there is a medal for race walking in the Olympics, it’s only a matter of time. But people need to realize that we aren’t walking ducks, we are serious high-performance athletes who give our body and soul into this.”
Manish booked a spot in Rio ahead of 300 competitors at the IAAF walking challenge in April. And few days ago in Rio, he defeated four former world champions, three Asian champions, two European champions and two Olympic medalists to finish 13th. For a person like Manish who comes from a low-income background, with no former training, this is quite an achievement. Whenever I read or write about the life story of an athlete , there is this one point which comes common that is the unsupported attitude of the government officials. The times are changing and so it’s better that our very own Sarkar also starts to be more supportive. It’s time that all you people, reading this blog, you start showing your support towards such unrecognized players who put tricolor ahead of everything else.
After the event Manish said,
“Sirji, ab wapas gaon jaake kya muh dikhaunga? Bola tha medal leke hi aaoonga, nahi hua. Bas 10 second sir, bas 10 second better karta toh medal ka chance tha. (Sir, what face will I go and show to my village and family? I promised them a medal and I missed out by 10 seconds, after working so hard).”
“Aapko pata hai India mein racewalking koi nahi dekhta, yehi chance tha Sir, ab 4 saal aur wait karna padega (You know, no one cares about racewalking back home, if I would win a medal, they would start putting in interest, now that chance is gone).”
Such words from Manish are truly heart-breaking. He might not have won medals like Sakshi or Sindhu, but truly deserve’s a recognition. For a person who didn’t get trained on proper tracks but on the roads of the Himalayas, who didn’t wear good aerodynamic shoes but the cheap torn shoes bought in a local market, who worked day and night to represent his country at such a big platform. If someone who has made so many sacrifices for his nation is not a winner, then who is?