Bitter side of women athletes

Jan 21, 2013, 03:47 IST | Sundari Iyer and Rohan Koli

India's top female marathoners speak about their problems � less opportunities, lack of prize money & sponsorship

All that glitters is not gold, is a saying that fits well for elite women athlete prize winners. The country’s top female marathoners mainly come from rural pockets with less or no exposure to the sport. It is only later that we get to know the bitter side of the story.

Half Marathon winner Sudha Singh (centre), Ritu Pal (left) and Monika Athare celebrate on the podium yesterday. Pic/Atul Kamble.

Yesterday, the Indian women athletes who finished in the top three had their own sordid stories to tell. They face a whole log of problems — no family support, less opportunities, lack of sponsorship and prize money and on top of all that, the social stigma.

Rohini Raut

Rohini Raut (22) who finished third in her first full marathon (42 km) clocking 3:03:21, behind Vijay Mala Patil 2:57:42, said that the prize money of Rs three lakh might look huge, but to maintain their form, they spend much more than this from their pockets. Being the daughter of a truck driver in Nagpur, the Raut family stays in a 10x10 rented tenement and keeping her sporting dreams alive becomes more confronting by the day.

“People feel that Rs three lakh is too much money. But they fail to realise that there are hidden expenses that we incur towards maintaining our diet, training and buying shoes.

“My father is a truck driver. My family spends close to Rs 12,000 per month on my and my twin sister Monica’s diet. From our childhood days, my father always had to borrow money for our travel expenses for competitions. Now it’s our turn to repay for our parents for their sacrifices. I want to earn well and buy my parents a house in a good locality in Nagpur,” Raut told MiD DAY.

Lalita Babbar crosses the Mumbai Marathon finish line yesterday. Pic/Atul Kamble.

Lalita Babbar, daughter of a farmer, defended her title in the Indian women’s full marathon, clocking 2:53:42. She said: “In villages, people don’t know much about athletics. I used to play kho kho and always had the desire to participate in athletics. I had no clue how to run a race and neither did school coaches.
“Majority of the athletes are from a lower middle class background. Being a girl has a downside. We overcome a lot of opposition from family and society before achieving respect. Money matters a lot for us. If we want to achieve success, we need to train hard and for that, we need sponsorship to develop further,” the 24-year-old said.

Meanwhile, Half Marathon (21 km) second runner-up Monika Athare, also a farmer’s daughter in Nashik, said winning USD 950 (approx Rs 51,000) will be a big boost. “We are a family of six. It’s not easy for us to survive with my dad and brothers’ earnings. I will hand over all the money to my parents. This amount hopefully will help us in some way,” said the 21-year old, who clocked 1:19:28 behind Ritu Pal (1:19:19).

Not enough money

Half Marathon winner Sudha Singh, who clocked 1:17:24 to win USD 2000 (approx Rs 1.7 lakh) didn’t seem happy with the cash reward, “The amount is too less compared to other cities. The money I received after winning the Delhi Half Marathon in September last year was Rs 2.5 lakh, whereas I won Rs one lakh for a 10 km race at Hyderabad in November. Being an international race, I expected a lot from here.”

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