Rani Yadav, 18, is a champion athlete and has 15 national medals to prove it. Her dream is to win the 20-km walk at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
This year alone, Rani has won four gold medals in the 10-km walk event at the national level. “She is an international prospect,” said Nanhe Singh, senior coach at the Sports Authority of India.
Now, cut to reality: Rani, a resident of Jagatganj, has to sell milk every day to help her family make ends meet. She milks five cows every day and then supplies it to the customers on her bicycle.
And she is not sure if her family's meagre income can fund her Commonwealth Games dream.
Rani has run from pillar to post — she met Virendra Singh, then a minister in the Mulayam Singh Yadav government, in 2004, and the Regional Sports Officer (RSO) several times — for support, but has received nothing so far.
“Last year, Vijay Kumar, RSO, Varanasi assured me of support,” she said. But the promise proved to be an empty one. When contacted, Kumar said he could do nothing for Rani “as she is part of the Sports Authority of India's Day Boarding Scheme”.
For the last few months, a Varanasi-based doctor has been giving her a stipend of Rs 1,500 every month to pursue her dreams, but that is, obviously, not enough.
“To participate in the Commonwealth Games and succeed, I need a healthy diet, but that is beyond my means," she said, adding: “If I do not find a sponsor, I will have to seriously think about quitting athletics.”