With the Olympics looming large, this is a good opportunity for us to familiarise ourselves with some fresh faces in addition to the already existing ones. Here's a list of Olympians who we wish bring us some national glory.
Goyal's Life A Roller-Coaster Ride
Neha Goyal, 24, is part of the 16-member Indian women’s hockey team that will travel to the Tokyo Games next month. But not all was sunshine and rainbows in her pursuit of being an Olympian.
From working alongside her mother and sisters at the cycle factory straightening spokes for about Rs 2,000 a month to Team India, it has been an incredible journey for the promising midfielder. To add to that she was also plagued by a toxic childhood. “My husband would get drunk, and become abusive and violent. Whenever he came home, Neha used to shut her eyes, close both her ears with her fingers and hide behind me. That was no way to live. The hockey ground felt safer,” says Savitri Devi, the mother of Neha.
Therefore 13 years back she enrolled her youngest of the three daughters into Haryana’s Sonepat academy, so she could escape the toxic environment at home.
Neha Goyal was coached by Pritam Siwach, an Arjuna Awardee and a member of India’s 2002 CWG gold medal-winning women’s team, illustrated in the image above.
The coach took Neha under her wing, providing her equipment, food and everything else she needed. Pritam claimed that once they were playing a state-level match in Gurgaon and in the first half, Neha wasn’t running much. Pritam asked Neha the reason, only for Neha to lift her foot and reveal a big hole in her shoe. During the half-time break, Siwach’s husband Kuldeep, also a player-turned coach, ran to a nearby store and got Neha, now employed with the Railways, a new pair of shoes. Siwach said that in the second half, she almost single-handedly ran through the opposition defence with her explosive speed and also scored a couple of goals.
It is this attribute speed along with the knack of scoring goals that saw Neha rise through the ranks and make her international debut at 18. Currently, with her earnings she provides financial support to Siwach's academy, additionally providing underprivileged players with room to live. Knowing Goyal came from nothing, she understands what it is like for unprivileged youngsters and acts as an inspiration to all.
Youthful Maana Makes Her Mark
Maana Patel, a backstroke simmer from Ahmedabad became the first female and the third swimmer from the country to punch her ticket to the Tokyo Olympics.
The following was confirmed through 'Universality Quota' by Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju as she joins Srihari Nataraj and Sajan Prakash who also qualified for the event and secured a direct entry.
The Universality quota allows one male and one female competitor from a country to participate in the olympics, provided no other swimmer from the same gender qualifies for the games or receives a FINA based invite on his/her Olympic Selection Time (B time)
Patel, 21, is a decorated athlete having won gold medals in 50m backstroke and 200 metre backstroke at the National Games. She also clinched gold in 100 metre backstroke at the 60th National School Games in 2015 breaking the national record with 1:04:21 on the clock. Chasing the 100m backstroke A qualification mark (1:00.25sec), Patel recently set a national record of 1:03.77sec at Belgrade Trophy in Serbia in June.
In 2015, she was selected for the Olympic Gold Quest, marking the first time a swimmer was roped in. Three years later in 2018, Patel secured three gold medals at 72nd Senior National Aquatic Championships. At the Senior Nationals in Thiruvananthapuram in 2018, Patel swept all three backstroke events. Hopefully this budding mermaid sets the bar high for future Indian swimmers.
Wrestling Is In Her Blood
Bisla initially had a murky start as she tried out several weight divisions, since she couldn't find a suitable weight category. Due to this uncertainty, she didn’t get the chance to participate in a single senior tournament for four years. Her career was at a crossroads. Having not won a national title, really made her question herself as she went into soul searching mode. But she soon proved her doubters wrong.
World No.7 Seema Bisla has swiftly risen to fame by becoming the most talked about name in the Indian wrestling scenario following a brilliant display by winning Gold in the World Wrestling Qualifiers in Sofia, Bulgaria. In doing so, she becomes the fourth Indian woman wrestler to seal her place in the upcoming Games, fulfilling a lifelong dream in the process.
She won the gold medal at the Cadet National Wrestling Championships. Soon followed by a bronze medal in her first international tournament, the 2008 Asian Championship. This comes as no surprise, as wrestling runs within the family. Her uncle and father are advocates of the sport and it took no time for Seema to pick this up. The triumphs kept coming and as they did she directed most of her success to Sushila Devi (sister) and Nafe Singh (brother-in-law). She surely goes into the games as an underdog, with the best yet to come.
Finding undiscovered gems like these athletes is what brings colour to sport. We only wish them the best in their endeavour of Olympic success. Let us know your thoughts about these athletes in the comment section below. SportsEquip caters to your every need by providing authentic sports equipment right at your door-step.