We often see our Indian athletes being lauded for their merits across the globe. They return back home with medals, having done the country proud. However, what we don't usually see is a side of the sports world that is kept in the dark. The side where athletes suffer due to the apathy of the system, the politics of the state governments or where our Indian athletes are just not given enough opportunity to live up to their full potential. One of the many such stories is that of National level swimmer Gopal Prasad Yadav who now runs a small tea stall in Kazipur, an example of the condition of sports and sportspersons in Bihar and a story of talent lost.
Keeping his dream to become an international swimmer aside, Gopal now has to sell tea to support his family. Their financial condition failed to support his dreams and there was little to no help from the government or sports ministries. In 1990, he went for a job interview in the Postal Department but did not get the job after which he scrambled to earn a living.
“Swimming is an expensive sport. I did not have enough money to join a swimming club. I used to practise in the Ganga but it became difficult to practise for long due to the level of pollution in the water. On several occasions, I gulped dirty water during practice, which was harmful for the body,” he told ANI.
'National Swimmer Tea Stall', is the name of his stall in Bihar. A name that attracts many customers. On being asked why it is named so, Gopal said that it highlights the plight of all athletes and he hopes that it will make people aware that a national level swimmer makes his living by selling tea. In 1987, Gopal represented Bihar for the first time in the national swimming competition held in Kolkata. He then excelled in the national swimming competition held in Kerala in 1988 and 1989. He also won the 100 meters backstroke competition in the state championship held in BCA Danapur in 1988.
Gopal has two sons Sunny Kumar and Sonu Kumar. He says he wants his sons to live his dream.“My ultimate ambition is to see my son(Sunny) excel as a swimmer. I take him to the Ganga every morning to hone his skills. I want him to achieve all that I could not,” said Gopal. Today, Gopal teaches swimming in the Ganges. He believes that this has kept his dream alive.