On the republic day of this year, athletics coach Ravindra Tong was felicitated with District Sports Award by Guardian Minister. Among the numerous awardees from diverse walks of life, Tong distinctly might gone unnoticed by many. Because of his police uniform, many might have believed that he is one of those policemen who were felicitated for their service to the department. This middle-aged sportsman in police uniform has an enchanting story of struggle, ambitions and success that keeps playing hid and seek with him and his mentees.
Tong runs an athletics training academy at Reshimbaug Ground since last 15 years. He works in Dog Squad of Nagpur Rural Police Headquarters and still he manages to spare his mornings and evenings to shape aspiring youth of Nagpur. Many of his students are now national and international athletes, Nikita Raut is an example. Countless youngsters have got employment in police, forest dept, army etc with the help of Tong’s training. Born and brought up in utter poverty and raised by a single mother, Tong was a shining athlete in his young age. He proved himself in number of state-level and national sports events. His performance landed him employment in police department from sports quota. He still had the harsh memories of tough days before getting job when he has to do all kind of odd jobs just to meet the ends. He doesnâ€™t shy in admitting that he even pulled rickshaw, worked as labourer on constructions, tried in small catering business and what not. His tough days passed but many of his players today are in that suffering.
Tong mentions that majority of his trainees come from economically weak section of the society. The money he gathers in form of fees from those who can manage, is mostly spent on welfare of trainees itself. For the instance, His club bears the cost if any trainee gets to participate in national or other sports events. Be it necessary diet of athletes or any other expenses, Tong has done it all to get the best out of his disciples. Nikita Raut, international athlete and a student of Tong since last 6 years says, she could never have achieved all this without Tong Sir. Interaction with his mentees narrated the scenario of struggle for aspiring athletes if one doesnâ€™t come from a well-off family.
â€˜Many starts with a dream of Olympic medal and end up preparing for police bharti or something like that due to financial circumstances. Even that too is becoming a far-fetched dream now due to lack of opportunities and exorbitant competition. Training or teaching someone and staying emotionally detached to him seems impossibleâ€™, says Tong. He doesnâ€™t talk much about himself. He is happy with whatever he got in life. His pain today is for his players. â€˜Government is not opening enough vacancies in sports quota. How are players supposed to stay motivated then ?â€™ he asked. Lot of municipal corporations in western Maharashtra have been recruiting deserving sportsmen, why cant it happen in Nagpur ? thatâ€™s one of his questions.