Ratiram Saini was happy to see Vikas Gowda hogging the limelight following his men’s discus gold at the Asian athletics championship.
The 27-year-old from Rajasthan won a bronze for India in the men’s 10,000m the same day, but did not have cameras flashing or fans taking pictures of him on their mobiles as he walked away from the floodlit track into the stadium darkness.
For an athlete competing over 25 laps to win a medal for India, the frenzy over a six foot, nine inch frame climbing on the podium to receive his medal did not even register. Ratiram joined the applause, saying, “Vikas won the first gold for India. He has made us athletes proud.”
The 10,000m bronze medallist too stepped on the podium and later handled interviews, but went back alone to his hotel room as his teammates had already left.
Loneliness is a familiar friend for this hardy Indian, far away from his family in Alwar district, and a lifetime of running at the National camp in Bangalore and competitions in Pune. “Running is my life. It is the only way I know to take care of my parents and family. We are poor people, so life is tough. Maybe that toughness helps in long distance running,” he said.
Ethiopians Alemu Bekele Gebre and Bilisuma Shugi Gelas, running for Bahrain, trailed three Indians (Ratiram, Kheta Ram and G. Lakshmanan) in the initial half of the race before bursting ahead and powering towards the finish.
“We went out there with the intention of doing our best,” said Ratiram. “Each one of us ran as per his level, trying for our best timings. I am happy to win a bronze for India in my first international event.”
The Northern Railway employee, posted on a sports quota in Lucknow and absent from work for long stretches during preparatory camps, is not sure whether the bronze medal will benefit him financially.
“I do not know whether this bronze will change my life. I wish it would, so that I can repay the loans taken to meet family expenses. So far, money from half-marathons has been my only source of income from athletics.”