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Celebrating The Hands That Raised India's Olympians

26/08/2016 11:57 AM IST | Updated 27/08/2016 9:12 AM IST
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What do PV Sindhu, Sakshi Malik and Dipa Karmakar have in common? Three women who were underdogs in their respective competitions and ultimately became champions, yes. Their fighting spirit, obviously. The fact that they fought all odds to emerge victorious in a country that has little infrastructure for any sport that is NOT cricket, of course. But look closer... what else do they have in common?

Marcelo del Pozo / Reuters

Sindhu became the first Indian to win silver at the badminton singles in the Olympics, ever. With all due credit to her, there were really two other people, apart from her coach Gopichand, who contributed to her being the champion that she is. Her parents, PV Ramana and Vijayalakshmi.

Ramana did everything he could to help his daughter achieve her dreams. He would wake up at 3am every day to take Sindhu for badminton practice...

For 13 years, her father Ramana did everything he could to help his daughter achieve her dreams. He would wake up at 3am every day to take Sindhu for badminton practice from Marredpally to Gopichand's academy at Gachibowl in Hyderabad. He would also pick her up, undertaking the 56km drive twice a day.

Ramana gave up everything for Sindhu. He would follow his daughter everywhere she went to play. He was seen in Nellore, Ravulapalem, Bhimavaram, Chirala and Vijayawada during state tournaments and national events. Sindhu's mom, Vijayalakshmi, took voluntary retirement from the railways so she could pay more attention to her daughter's career. They were living and breathing badminton just as much as their daughter was.

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Sakshi Malik with her father Sukhbir Malik and mother Sudesh Malik.

Sakshi Malik's parents, too, quietly fought the good fight. After Sakshi picked up a bronze medal for wrestling in Rio, Sakshi's mother Sudesh Malik said in an interview with a leading newspaper, "There were many people who used to tell me in the beginning that she is a girl and why are you putting her in wrestling... When she started getting medals people stopped speaking."

Sakshi says her parents never forced her to get into wrestling; on the contrary, Sudesh wanted Sakhi to take up athletics instead and when Sakshi insisted that she wanted to wrestle — her mother first ignored her repeated requests to train in this "male-dominated" sport. But her headstrong daughter would not have it any other way, and she finally agreed. And Sudesh started taking her daughter to the Sir Chotu Ram Wrestling Academy in Rohtak. Sakshi had to fight boys as opponents early in her career; women were not allowed to participate in wrestling in Haryana, a state where the child sex ratio is 834. But her parents stood by her like rock. Her father, Sukhbir Malik, who works as a conductor at the Delhi Transport Corporation, believes that full parental support is needed for children to achieve their dreams. The villagers used to protest, but the family didn't let them get in the way of achieving their daughter's dreams.

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Dipa Karmakar parents, Dulal Karmakar and Gouri Karmakar, watch Dipa in the vault finals of the gymnastics event.

Dipa Karmakar, India's first gymnast at the Olympics, who ultimately ranked a commendable fourth, belongs to a poor household in Agartala, Tripura. Her father Dulal Karmakar, a former weightlifting coach, supported her tremendously and helped her overcome her fear of falling and challenges caused by her "flat feet".

Dulal Karmakar supported Dipa tremendously and helped her overcome her fear of falling and challenges caused by her "flat feet".

Dulal had recognised his daughter's innate talent when she was a child and encouraged her to try gymnastics. He enrolled her at the Vivekananda Byamagar — the oldest gym in Agartala — where he still coaches. Every day from the age of six, she would ride with her father to the poorly equipped gymnasium where she learnt the fundamentals of gymnastics. Dipa in an interview said that she is blessed to have her coach and father by her side always. "Both of them believed in my ability and motivated me to excel."

Rio Olympics -- India

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