Lokesh Kumar, 16, is rueing the day he missed winning a place in the 36th National Junior Athletics Championships by eight nanoseconds in the 300m race. The race that took place in February this year in Guwahati, Assam, had teens from all over the country participating.
Even though he won a gold medal in the 200m race at the National Championships, the State-level champion is in this predicament as he says he can’t even afford to drink “a glass of milk”.
“I didn’t have a good diet plan,” he tells The Better India. “I know I can do better if I had more than warm water and whatever little my mother can afford to cook or even some milk.”
A Class 10 student of the Government school — Sarvodaya Co-Ed Vidyalaya in RK Puram, Delhi, the 16-year-old is one of India’s diamonds in the rough in the sports arena.
He adds, “I am a state champion. I have won a gold medal in the 80th Annual Delhi State Championship 2021 in the 300m race and a silver medal in the 100m race.” In 2019, he won a gold medal in the 600m race at the 79th Annual Delhi State Championship and a silver in the 100m race.
A recent tweet by journalist Andrew Amsan has brought Lokesh’s inspiring story in the limelight. However, he is still hoping for a miracle to help him continue his journey as an athlete.
Lokesh, 16, is a talented 400m runner from Delhi. His dad is a cycle rickshaw driver, mum works as a house help. Lokesh says he doesn’t even have money to take a bus from shahdra to Jln for training. ” We don’t have money for milk. I’ve been drinking warm water and practicing.” pic.twitter.com/eKVJrlhs7r
— Andrew Amsan (@AndrewAmsan) October 15, 2021
‘I Want To Make India Proud’
Hailing from Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh, Lokesh moved with his family to the national capital three years ago. He currently lives with his folks in Shahdara district. “My father (Jangjeet Singh) is a daily wager. He is a cycle rickshaw puller while my mother (Pushpa Devi) works as domestic help.”
After sporting events halted during the lockdown, his parents dipped into their savings to keep their family afloat.
“Unlike other athletes at these championships, I show up in the same shoes that I have been wearing for two years now. I can’t even afford the biscuits or juices that are a part of their diets,” he laments.
His interest in sports and national-level championships stemmed from small-town folk making it big in the sports arena. He recalls the immense joy he felt watching Neeraj Chopra clinch a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics 2020.
Back in his village in Aligarh, he used to participate in various sporting events. “I used to envy my friends winning medals at these events. I watched the late Palinder Chaudhary from my village win a gold medal for India in the Asian Youth Championship in Bangkok 2017, and I felt inspired to do the same,” he says.
So every day, the young lad wakes up at 4 am to make a two-hour journey by bus to Jawaharlal Nehru stadium for his track and field training. It is six hours before he finds himself at home again, and after a bit of rest, he trains every evening as well.
His coach, Vipin Kumar, who has been training him for the past two years, says, “Lokesh is one of my most talented athletes. But because of his financial situation, he is unable to move ahead.”
Vipin adds that in the under-16 category, Lokesh has a record timing of 22 seconds in the 200m race. He seamlessly completes the 400m race in 49 seconds.
“My coach is the one person who has supported me through it all. We have begun training for the next World Championship event for the 400m race. But if our finances don’t improve, I am afraid I might have to quit sports and join my father as a daily wage rickshaw puller,” says Lokesh.
After reading about the boy’s plight on Twitter, the Chairperson of Adani Group, Gautam Adani, said that he would extend a helping hand. “I am overwhelmed by Lokesh’s determination and dedication. We will take care of their needs and further their sporting career. @AdaniSportsline Will help Lokesh to fulfil his dream of illuminating the name of India,” he tweeted.
Thank you, @AndrewAmsan, for highlighting this talented youngster.
लोकेश के दृढ़ संकल्प और समर्पण से मैं अभिभूत हूँ। हम उनकी ज़रूरतों का ध्यान रखेंगे और उनके खेल करियर को आगे बढ़ाएंगे।@AdaniSportsline भारत का नाम रोशन करने का सपना साकार करने में लोकेश की मदद करेगी। https://t.co/MctE2y3QLU
— Gautam Adani (@gautam_adani) October 16, 2021
Lokesh says he is still awaiting financial support from his new fans on the internet. “To date, I have focussed on my training and putting my best foot forward,” he says, adding, “I have read on Twitter that Gautam Adani Ji has said he will help me, and I look forward to whatever support I can get.”
The teenager isn’t thinking about his further studies at the moment but concludes by saying, “I just want to make India proud. I want to wave our national flag at an international sporting event.”
If you would like to get in touch with Lokesh, do reach out to him on 9540266396.
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)