Do you know any of these Indian athletes??? We bet you don’t!

Sita Sahu
Sport: Athletics
Now: Golgappa seller

From being a two-time bronze medal winner in the Athens Special Olympics in 2011 to selling gol-gappas and papdi chaats, Sita Sahu’s tale echoes the story of several sportspersons who have faded into oblivion due to poverty. The 15-year old Olympian from the Rewa district of Madhya Pradesh has been forced to work at a shop owing to financial troubles. A bronze medal in 200 meter relay race and another in the 1,600 meter race was not enough to aid her family of six. Along with three of her siblings, Sita spends her time at home making the base for the chaats in their one-room house in Dhobia Tanki. The family on an average earns Rs.150-180 a day or even less.

By Anup Dutta in Bhopal

Shanti Devi
Sport: Kabaddi
Now: Vegetable seller

Shanti Devi, the 40-year-old former player of Bihar kabaddi team is now selling vegetables at the Sonari Aerodrome Market at Jamshedpur to feed her three sons and a daughter.

Shanti Devi, who represented Bihar in the 30th, 31st and 32nd National Kabaddi Championship in the 1980s, said, “Our inadequate income has forced us to discontinue school for the children, while two of my sons work”. Stating that she had represented the undivided Bihar team more than 30 times in various championships, Shanti Devi regretted that she was ignored.”But any government could have offered me a job,” Shanti said. She went on to win the 31st and 32nd National Kabaddi Championship in 1982 and 1983 at Jamshedpur and Amravati respectively. She won the silver medal in Guwahati National Kabaddi League and bronze in All India Women National Kabaddi Championship.

She also won the Bihar Kabaddi Federation Championship. She said she had kept aside her medals as did not want her children to take up the game. “I have never encouraged them, as I don’t want them to face the same frustration.

Nauri Mundu
Sport: Hockey
Now: Teacher

Owing to financial issues, 33-year-old Nauri Mundu gave up the dream of being a hockey player five years ago. Mundu, who’s from Jharkhand’s Khunti district, has represented the national team 19 times. Today, Mundu teaches in the Mahil School, a private school run by a non-governmental organisation called SINI. Besides teaching, Mundu has also been forced to do farming because the Rs.5,000 she earns from her teaching job is not enough to feed her family of 14.

Mundu stated her career in 1995 by winning Nehru Hockey Tournament. In 1995, she was awarded the best hockey player ward by former chief minister of Bihar Lalu Prasad Yadav and in 1996 she won bronze in Nehru Girls Hockey Tournament and National Women’s Games. In 1997 she won silver in the 43rd National Senior Games Championship and 15th Bihar State Hockey Women’s Championship.

With many more awards in in between, she also she won the Jharkhand Women’s Hockey Association Award in 2008 “I have put my best foot forward, but I soon realised that without adequate funds I won’t be able to support my family,” she said, “I would have continued if I had been helped by the government, much like it does with cricket players. I moved pillar to post but without any respite.”

Nisha Rani Dutt
Sport: Archery
Now: Jobless

The 21-year-old archer Nisha Rani Dutt from Pathmada village in Jharkhand had to leave the sport two years ago after she realised she had to help out her family. Dutt, who won the best archer’s award in Taiwan, participated in the Asian Grand Prix, won the best player award in Sikkim and bagged another silver at the South Asian Championship held at Jamshedpur in 2008.

She participated in the Bangkok Grand Prix in 2008 and won a bronze in the team event, besides coming out with flying colours at a tournament in Taiwan. “It was difficult for me to continue the game and support my poor parents. In 2005, I joined Tata Archery Academy and remained there till 2008. Though I earned a monthly stipend of Rs.500 to 600, it was not sufficient.”

By Saiful Haque in Ranchi

Sport: Athletics
Now: Brick Kiln Labourer

Earning laurels for her country has neither given due recognition nor changed life for the better, as S Santhi , the silver medalist at the Doha Asian Games, still struggles to find a foothold. Santhi failed a gender test that followed the women’s 800 mt event.

Worse was to follow as she worked in a brick kiln in Tamil Nadu’s Katthakurichi village to support the family of six. The journey from penury to Doha has not taken her anywhere but brought the girl back to be a daily wagelabourer who earns a meager Rs.200 a day. Her persistent efforts might land her in Patiala to get trained as a coach. She is hopeful about getting admission to the Sports Authority of India Institute soon.

Despite the results of the gender test, former chief minister M Karunanidhi had extended a cash award of Rs.15 lakh. With that, the family purchased agricultural land but with rain playing truant, the land lies fallow. Santhi’s plight attracted media attention ahead of the London Olympics and brought some succor with public sector giant GAIL promising Rs1 lakh to meet the immediate expenses. “Only a fellow athlete could understand the trauma of another.

Track and field queen, Ashwini Nachappa, who has also acted in movies, spoke to me for over five minutes and asked for my resume. I still believe she is interested in getting me some job,” says Santhi.

By M.C. Rajan in Chennai