As it turns out, winning the 2015 World Military Games in South Korea wasn’t enough to guarantee Nitendra Rawat a spot in the summer Rio Olympics this year.
The man, who is a noncommissioned officer in the Indian army, may not be able to go to Brazil despite qualifying for the prestigious sports event because he cannot afford to buy a pair of training shoes for himself.
Rawat is the sole breadwinner of his family. Since he has to split his meager salary to meet his own expenses as well as to support his parents, who are farmers, he doesn’t have much left to buy himself the necessary gear, which could cost up to US$150, to run.
“I have qualified for the Games, but still I see no one coming forward to bear my expenses. A decent pair of running shoes cost nothing less than Rs 10,000," the 29-year old told India Today.
"With the kind of intense training we undergo, the shoes don't last more than two or three weeks. I end up spending nearly Rs 20,000 a month on my shoes and I also have to send money to my parents back in Uttarakhand.”
However, all hope is not lost. Delhi-based dental surgeon, Amit Srivastava, who is also a marathon enthusiast, has come forward to help Rawat after his tragic story made headlines in Indian media.
"I run at various marathons myself and understand the requirements of a runner. I had also run the Delhi Half Marathon where Nitendra Rawat finished first in the Indian men's elite category. To see an athlete who won the marathon struggling for running shoes made me felt really bad," India Today quoted Shrivastava as saying. He is reportedly going to send over size-eight shoes to Ravat this week.
Since Ravat has to train vigorously to train for the August games, a single pair of shoes won’t solve all his problems. He needs more support and it appears a lot of people are now coming together to do that.
“A lot of people are calling me up and have offered to help with my shoes. I am so happy that people in this country are concerned about sports persons like me. I am overwhelmed by the response and it will only motivate me to do more for the country,” the overwhelmed marathoner stated.