1. Dilraj Kaur – Para Shooter
Known to be the nation’s first international level para shooter, the honours she bagged over the course of her career didn’t help her financially. Recognised as one of the best para air pistol shooters back in the day, she now sells biscuits and chips at a roadside stall in Dehradun. She said that she didn’t receive any help from Uttarakhand's para-shooting community and didn’t even get a government job based on the sports quota.
2. Koijam Usharani Devi – Karate Player
From a four-time gold medallist to being struck by poverty, this 16-times gold medallist also had to give up on karate due to financial constraints. Due to lack of government assistance, she has taken up domestic work in order to survive. She said that despite being selected for several international events, she had to decline opportunities due to financial restraints.
3. Asha Roy – Sprinter
Having clocked 11.85 seconds at the 51st National Open Athletics Championship, she was amongst the fastest Indians. In 2011, she won a gold medal in 100m and 200m races along with a silver medal in the 4X100m relay at the National Open Athletics Championships. However, due to lack of support from the government, she now hardly make ends meet even for basic necessities.
4. Nisha Rani Dutt – Archer
This award-winning archer not only participated in the Asian Grand Prix but also bagged the best archer award in Taiwan, the best player award in Sikkim and won silver at the South Asian Championship held at Jamshedpur. She said that it was difficult for her to continue the sport and support her poor parents with a monthly stipend of just ₹500. She even had to sell her Korean bow and arrows set worth ₹4 lakh for just ₹50,000 for the maintenance of their old mud house.
5. Rashmita Patra – Footballer
Now struck by poverty, she represented the country in the under-sixteen tournament in Kuala Lumpur at the Asian Football Confederation back in 2008. However, extreme poverty has now forced her to run a betel shop in Odisha.
6. Rishu Mittal – Boxer
Even after winning several accolades for the country, this national-level boxer has been working as a maid. Although she bagged a gold medal at the Haryana State Championship in 2014, she had to take this drastic step in order to pay for her education.
7. Shanti Devi – Kabaddi Player
Having won the National Kabaddi Championships in 1982 and 1983, she didn’t have enough money to put her four children in school. She now resides at Jamshedpur where she sells vegetables.
8. Sita Sahu - Special Olympics Medallist
Despite bagging a bronze medal at the Athens Special Olympics, she and her family of six are barely getting by. Her family claims that they don't even remember the last time they had a complete meal and even the government failed to fulfil its promise. She is now forced to sell golgappas for a living and survives on less than ₹180 per day.
9. Kamal Kumar – Boxer
Once a national-level gold medallist, he now picks up garbage from houses in order to make a living. Although he wanted to pursue playing for the nation, he had to give up his dream due to lack of financial support from the authorities.
10. Santhi Soundarajan - Track & Field Athlete
Winning a silver medal at the Doha Asian Games, she now struggles to make a living. Post failing a gender test after a women’s 800-meter event, she was banned from the game thereafter. To support her family of six, she works at a brick kiln in Tamil Nadu where she earns ₹200 per day.
11. Nauri Mundu – Hockey Player
Even after winning bronze in Nehru Girls Hockey Tournament in 1996, silver in the National Senior Games Championship in 1997 and has represented the National Team on 19 occasions, she had to give up on her passion. She now teaches in a private school and does farming to support her family. She said that she would have continued playing if the government helped her.
Here’s to all unsung heroes who bought several medals home.