They say it doesn’t matter where you come from as long as you believe in yourself this quote apply to all those who might not have been born with basic necessity of life but never gave up instead struggled and ultimately made it big in their life Below are inspiring runners who not only became successful but also became filthy rich, call it destiny or hard work but we must say they were all worth it.
Let’s begin with our very own Flying Sikh, Milkha Singh, who has made his country proud on the athletics field. Singh has done everything to reach where he is: be it walking barefoot on hot sand or swimming across canals to reach his school. Even on the personal front he went through a lot of trauma having seen his family getting killed during the Partition of India. But nothing could stop him from achieving his goals. He went to do something that he loved the most. Running that is, and nearly gave India a taste of Olympics athletics glory, and will forever be known as one of India’s greatest runners! A Padmashri awardee today, his life was chronicled in the movie “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag”.
Growing up on a farm with big dreams, Lornah Kiplagat’s family wanted her to take up medicine as a profession to help improve the financial conditions of the household. But Lornah always wanted to be a world-class athlete, and suffered thousands of miles of travel without proper amenities. There was a time when she had to spend a night in a toilet as she didn’t have enough money for accommodation. After moving to the Netherlands for her training, there was no looking back. Glory on the track came soon after, and she also launched her own sports brand, an academy & training center, athletics camps for women and a stadium. Along the way Kiplagat also acquired four world records in the 5km road race, 10 mile, half marathon and 20km events.
Nicknamed the ‘Payyoli Express’, PT Usha became a household name in India in the 80s and 90s, and the inspiration for millions of women athletes in the country. But like most Indian athletes, it has always been a story of uphill struggle. Born in a poor household, her father earned his living through a small clothing store, and entered a young Usha into her athletics training. This despite the fact that Usha had to go through various health problems at a young age. In 1974, as a participant at the National School Games organized by the Kerala Government, a 15-year-old Usha was discovered by athletics coach O.M. Nambiar, who went on to mentor her for the rest of her illustrious career. The young runner made her Olympic debut at Moscow in 1980, and while she didn’t qualify for the finals, she dazzled at the Pakistan Open National Meet at Karachi in the same year, earning 4 golds for the country.
While the 1980 Olympics didn’t quite go her way, she performed superlatively in all Asian sports events of the decade. The 1986 Asian Games in Seoul saw her win 4 golds and a silver in track and field. Overall, from 1982-1994, Asia’s sprint queen hauled in 4 gold and 6 silvers in four Asian Games. Even more unbelievable was her run at the Asian Athletic Championships through the decade, where she won a total of 22 medals, more than half of which were gold (14, to be exact).
After Moscow, she went on to participate in Los Angeles in 1984, where she finished first in the 400m hurdles semi-finals. The finals proved to be a nerve-wracking story, though, as she barely missed the third place Bronze by 1/100th of a second in an unforgettable photo finish that spectators relive even today. Not only was she the first Indian woman to make it to an Olympic final, but her record of 55.42 seconds still stands as India’s national best.
Abebe came into the limelight after conquering the field in the 1960 Summer Olympics even though he ran barefoot. The gold medal in the marathon event cemented his name in athletics history, but all was not rosy for Abebe when growing up. Born in the small community of Jato, Abebe had not set his sights on athletics when growing up. While his father was a shepherd, he decided to work for the Imperial Bodyguard to support his family. His inclusion in the 1960 Ethiopian contingent came as a happenstance and he was a last minute replacement. Rarely has such last-gasp stand-in earned so much glory, as Abebe did in 1960. He followed it up with a gold in 1964 as well. What kept him going? “I wanted the world to know that my country, Ethiopia, has always won with determination and heroism,” he’s known to have said.
A farmer-turned-athlete, Kimetto was interested in running from a young age when he used to zip around his village, but an athletics career seemed a distant shot for the man who came from an underprivileged background. “I think what really motivates me to be a fighter is the fact that I come from a humble background,” Kimetto is quoted as saying. “I try to really make sure that I achieve my best so that I can assist my family”. A chance encounter with Geoffrey Mutai in 2008 set Kimetto on the track to become one of the fastest racers in history. Mutai approached him while Kimetto passed him by on a routine run, and asked him to join his training camp, eventually sponsoring his kit, shoes and participation fees. In 2012, he earned the 25K world record with a time of 1:11:18 in Berlin, and followed it up with a victory in Tokyo in 2013, and by winning the Chicago Marathon in a course-record time the same year.