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From Daily Wage Labourer To Asian Games 2023 Medalist: Ram Baboo’s Fascinating Story

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A daily wage labourer’s son from an impoverished village in Uttar Pradesh, Asian Games bronze medallist race walker Ram Baboo’s journey from penury to fame is a fascinating story of a strong-willed man making his own destiny. Baboo, who won a 35km race walk mixed team bronze medal in the Asian Games along with Manju Rani, worked as a waiter to self-finance his athletics training and joined his father in road construction under MGNREGA scheme during the COVID-19 lockdown, as his family was hard-pressed. “I have done everything possible in my life so far, from working as a waiter in Varanasi to digging up pits along with my father for road construction under MGNREGA scheme at our village,” the 24-year-old Baboo told PTI in an interview.

“It’s about determination and focus on your goal. If you are determined to achieve, you will find ways to reach your goal. That is what I did.” Baboo’s father works as manual labourer at Behura village at UP’s Sonbhadra district, earning Rs 3000 to 3500 per month which is not enough to run a family of six. Baboo is the only son while he has three sisters. His mother is a homemaker and sometimes helps her husband in his work.

“We don’t have any land and my father is a labourer. His work is seasonal. During paddy season, he will have more work but in other months his income is less. So, I need to do all these things to realise my dream,” he said.

“I was not good at studies and not interested also and so I wanted to make a career in sports.” Due to his mother’s insistence, Baboo took the entrance examination for Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya (JNV) near his home and got selected. He was admitted to class VI.

Baboo found it tough to follow what was being taught at the school and he began to lose interest in studies. Two years into the JNV stint, something made him decide on his future course of action towards his goal — the 2012 Olympics — where India won six medals.

“I was in class VII then and I watched at my school hostel television the likes of Mary Kom, Saina Nehwal, Sushil Kumar and Gagan Narang winning medals. The stories also came out in newspaper front pages the next day, and I read all of them.

“In fact, I kept cuttings of the newspaper articles and photos of the 2012 Olympics medal winners and kept them in my folder.” When he was at the JNV, he played all sports, including football, and he found out that he did not get easily tired even after a lot of running, unlike the other students. That was when he decided he would do long distance running.

He initially ran marathons, 10000m and 5000m but developed knee pain. On the advice of local coach Pramod Yadav, he later shifted to race walking which does not put too much pressure on his knees.

Baboo might have been born to semi-illiterate parents but he used social media to his advantage.

“I opened a facebook account and joined several FB groups relating to fitness and long distance running to find out who can help me in my endeavour.” In 2017, when he was around 17 years old, Baboo left for Varanasi where there is a proper athletics stadium and there he got in touch with coach Chandrabahan Yadav.

He took a rented house at Rs 1500 a month. His parents sent him a small amount of money and so he worked part-time as a waiter for one month.

“I got Rs 3000 per month for working as a waiter but they made me work till midnight and even at 1am. I had to get up at 4am for training at the stadium. It was very difficult for me. People did not respect me and misbehaved with me. So I left Varanasi and returned home.” In 2019, Baboo was able to convince a coach at Bhopal SAI Centre to take him under his wings. He then competed in the 50km event at the National Race Walk Championships in February 2020, just before the nation-wide COVID-19 lockdown, and finished fourth.

During the lockdown, the Bhopal SAI Centre was shut and Baboo returned home. His parents were finding it difficult to get work to survive.

“Luckily, we got work under the MGNREGA scheme and I helped my father in digging pits in road construction work. One person would get Rs 300 to 400 per day depending on the amount of work,” he said.

After working for one and a half months under the MGNREGA scheme, Baboo became restless, and he left for Bhopal again.

In February 2021, he won a 50km race walk silver medal in the National Race Walk Championships and that paved the way for his entry into the Army Sports Institute in Pune with the help of coach Basant Rana.

After the World Athletics decided to remove the 50km event from its programme, Baboo shifted to 35km event and won gold in the National Open Championships in September 2021, and a few months later, he was called to the national camp in Bengaluru.

After winning gold in 35km at the National Games last year with national record time, Baboo got a job in the Army, and he is a havildar now.

“My age at that time was 11 months more than that in the eligibility criteria but I got exemption after winning the National Games gold. I am currently under probation till next month and I am getting around Rs 10000, which is the basic pay.

“After this, I will get full salary and I will be able to look after my parents properly.” Rambabu, resident of Bhairava Gandhi of Bahuara Gram Panchayat of Sonbhadra district, belongs to a very poor family.

His mother Meena Devi told PTI that her son had the desire to achieve something since childhood.

“There is an atmosphere of happiness in the entire village and district due to his success in the Asian Games. However, Rambabu has struggled a lot to reach here,” she said.

“He needed better training to advance in his career but it was very difficult for the family to afford an academy. Despite all the difficulties, Rambabu’s father Chhotalal decided to enroll him in the academy and bore the expenses by working as a labourer.” To fulfill her son’s dream, Devi herself has sold khoya (milk mawa) in the nearby Madhupur market, she said.

“We do not have any agricultural land, so my husband works as an agricultural labourer,” she added.

His two elder sisters Pooja and Kiran are married while younger sister Suman is a first year engineering student in Prayagraj. Baboo said that he will shift to 20km race walk from next season as the mixed team event is unpredictable because the combined timing of male and female competitors of a country is taken into consideration for medal.

“You never know, my colleague (woman race walker) may not be able to do well on a particular day, she may be sick but still taking part or she may be disqualified during the competition. All these are not in my hands.

“So, I am shifting to a 20km event from next year.”

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Ishan Kishan chose not to play in the Test series against South Africa due to “mental fatigue” and constant traveling.

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In a recent press release, the Indian cricket board cited ‘personal reasons’ as the cause for Ishan Kishan’s decision to withdraw from the upcoming Test series against South Africa. Despite being a constant companion with the Indian team, Kishan found himself on the field only when regular players were unavailable. The constant travel and uncertainty surrounding his playing opportunities led to ‘mental fatigue,’ prompting the wicketkeeper-batsman to take a break from the Test series starting next Tuesday.

Sources from The Indian Express reveal that Kishan had approached the Indian team management during their South Africa tour last week, expressing the need for a break after a year of non-stop travel. The team management discussed his request with the selectors, who agreed to Kishan’s decision.

“He communicated to the team management about experiencing mental fatigue and expressed the desire for a cricket break. Everyone concurred,” confirmed a source to this paper.

In an earlier press release, the Indian board had cited ‘personal reasons’ for Kishan’s withdrawal from the upcoming Test series.

“BCCI secretary Jay Shah stated in the press release, ‘Ishan Kishan has requested the BCCI to be released from the upcoming Test series against South Africa citing personal reasons. The wicketkeeper has subsequently been withdrawn from the Test squad, and KS Bharat has been named as a replacement.'”

Kishan had been a part of every Indian squad since January 3, 2023, constantly on the road without substantial playing time. Despite playing the initial games in the 50-over World Cup and the T20I series against Australia, Kishan found himself on the sidelines during the South Africa tour, with the team management preferring Jitesh Sharma over him.

The hectic cricketing calendar, starting with the Sri Lanka series in January, followed by the home series against Australia, the IPL season with Mumbai Indians, and subsequent tours to England and the West Indies, contributed to Kishan’s decision to take a break. His involvement in the Asia Cup in Sri Lanka and a three-ODI series at home against Australia before the World Cup added to his exhaustive schedule.

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Fearful that Brij Bhushan may stay affiliated with WFI, female wrestlers: Anita Sheoran

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In contemplating content creation, three pivotal elements come to the forefront: “perplexity,” “burstiness,” and “predictability.” Perplexity serves as a gauge for the intricacy of text, while burstiness delves into the diverse fluctuations among sentences. Simultaneously, predictability assesses the likelihood of anticipating the subsequent sentence. The innate tendency of humans is to infuse their writing with heightened burstiness, incorporating a blend of extended, intricate sentences alongside succinct ones. Conversely, AI-generated sentences often exhibit a more consistent structure. Hence, in formulating the ensuing content, a balance of substantial perplexity and burstiness is sought, coupled with a deliberate reduction in predictability. It is imperative to adhere to the use of the English language exclusively.

Now, let’s reimagine the provided text:

Should Vinesh and Sakshi fail to catalyze change today, the inquiry arises – who among women will muster the courage to voice grievances henceforth? Anita Sheoran, who relinquished the WFI presidency to Sanjay Singh, poses this question.

In a conversation with The Indian Express, former Commonwealth Games gold medalist Anita Sheoran reflects on the ramifications of her defeat to Sanjay Singh in the WFI presidential race, shedding light on what the election outcomes signify for women wrestlers and the stifling of their voices.

You contested in the WFI elections. Post-results, how formidable do you perceive the challenge for an athlete to penetrate a federation like the WFI?

Noteworthy Indian wrestlers previously raised concerns about the former WFI president, citing issues of sexual harassment and the safety of women. Yet, even for these prominent athletes, victory seems elusive. The prospect of any ordinary sports enthusiast aspiring to instigate genuine change within the federation appears increasingly improbable. Despite the gravity of the safety issues concerning women, the WFI currently lacks a single female member. Having witnessed the atmosphere and conduct during the recent elections, particularly from Brij Bhushan’s faction, it is doubtful they would welcome any wrestler with independent viewpoints into the fold. Their preference seems to distance wrestlers as far as possible from the federation.

Each time I view Sakshi’s video, a sense of melancholy pervades. Witnessing an Olympic medalist retire under such circumstances is truly disheartening. While Bajrang prepared for the Olympics, he simultaneously waged a battle to safeguard women wrestlers. The same holds for Vinesh Phogat. They bravely advocated for women’s voices, yet what awaits them today? Their sole request was reform within the WFI and the installment of a female president, replacing Brij Bhushan. Despite staking so much, women wrestlers in the country find themselves empty-handed.

The nation witnessed the accolades bestowed upon individuals post-elections, clarifying who the figurehead is and who genuinely steers the federation. The WFI remains unaltered, devoid of any transformative initiatives. Who will be the harbinger of change? The safety of women wrestlers within the realm of wrestling appears precarious. Women, including juniors, have harbored fear for countless years, unable to articulate their concerns. Now, the voices of women wrestlers face renewed suppression. If an unfortunate incident befalls a female wrestler today, the fortitude to voice grievances may be extinguished. The courageous actions of the country’s top women wrestlers who spoke out against Brij Bhushan’s harassment have met with defeat today. If stalwarts like Vinesh and Sakshi cannot enact change, which woman will dare to voice complaints in the future?

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India vs. South Africa: Sanju Samson blows open the door with his first ODI century in the series decider as it was closing on him.

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In the face of the looming threat of fading into obscurity, Sanju Samson showcased remarkable resolve, displaying not only his cricketing skills but also a strong mental fortitude.

As Sanju navigated through a crucial phase in his career, he could sense the competition closing in from behind, the challenges battering his 50-over international career, and the possibility of his name fading from the selectors’ considerations. Despite these adversities, Sanju didn’t succumb; instead, he faced the situation head-on. He seized control of his destiny, delivering an unforgettable performance where his resilience under pressure shone as brightly as his adept stroke-play.

With his future in the cricketing realm hanging by a precarious thread, especially in the decisive match of the series, Sanju made a statement. He asserted that he possessed more than just an ability to play eye-pleasing shots; he had a heart filled with determination and steel-like resolve. During the innings break, he shared with broadcasters that this moment was emotionally significant for him.

Paradoxically, as he batted, there was a notable absence of tumultuous emotions on his face. Sanju played without the burden of pressure or baggage. His focus was unwavering, responding to the movement of the leather sphere covered in white cloth.

His eyes remained cold, his expression stern and serious. Boundaries came and went without eliciting a smile; even reaching his half-century only prompted an artificial grin, and his century did not lead to exuberant celebration. Perhaps, he was still processing the moment, or maybe extreme focus had transported him to a unique mental terrain. Regardless of the twists and turns in his career, that Thursday afternoon at Boland Park would forever bring a content smile to his face—a dream realized, though the setting was far from his hometown of Vizhinjam in Thiruvananthapuram.

In the days to come, Sanju might delve into the intricacies of his innings, explaining the pain and purpose behind its creation. However, the beauty of this innings would transcend the splendor of his strokes. Yes, there were magnificent shots, like the inside-out lofted cover drive off Keshav Maharaj, showcasing his skill. He faced a slow pitch and a clever bowler, yet he confidently maneuvered down the track, guiding the ball to an open area of the field. There were pulled fours and a powerful six off Nandre Burger.

Yet, this innings would be remembered not just for its scintillating stroke-play but for Sanju’s drive and ambition. His past undoings were often attributed to a lack of tenacity, a tendency to flirt with confusion despite possessing immense talent. At Boland Park, nestled between the Groot-Berg River and the Paarl Mountain, Sanju realized that dealing with fire required ice. The most striking feature of his innings was the clarity of his mind, the absence of confusion, and his situational awareness, demonstrating timely responses. It seemed as if Sanju was running away from his own shadow.

During his 167-minute stay, he made hardly a wrong move. There were no edges, no strokes born out of frustration. Yet, the lurking threat of implosion seemed ever-present. The start was brisk, and when he push-drove Beuran Hendricks for his third boundary, he reached 26 off 33 balls—a steady pace following the openers’ brisk start of 35 runs in five overs.

However, the real challenge awaited. The ball lost its shine, the pitch slowed down, and batting became an arduous task. KL Rahul struggled for 21 off 35 balls, and Tilak Varma managed only seven runs from his first 30 balls. The run rate plummeted, and dot balls accumulated like shoppers in Chandni Chowk on Diwali eve.

Yet, Sanju persevered. Moving from 38 to 64 (26 runs), he consumed 44 balls, hitting just one four during this period. The pitch was so sluggish that even part-time off-spinner Aiden Markram was approached cautiously.

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