Hailing from the small village of Kajiani in UP, Ajay Saroj made India proud at the 19th Asian Games when he won the silver medal in the 1500m race. The 26-years-old plumber’s son grew up borrowing shoes from friends and taking loans from friends and family to participate in competitions. He is now waiting for the UP government’s 1.5 Cr cash prize to pay off loans and debts.
At the Asian Games which were held in Hangzhou, China, Ajay Saroj clocked 3:38.94 seconds to finish behind Qatar’s Mohamad Al-Garni who clocked 3:38.36 seconds. Kerala’s Jinsen Jonson won the bronze medal.
Ajay Saroj’s wins before the Asian Games
Saroj’s began with winning a bronze medal in 1000m junior nationals in Lucknow. Some of the athlete’s most significant wins since then include finishing fifth at the Youth Olympic Games 2014 in China and winning a gold at the Asian Junior Athletics Championship 2016 in Vietnam. The athlete won the gold at the Indian Grand Prix 2016 in Delhi and he has also won the gold in at the South Asian Games 2019.
Ajay Saroj’s financial constraints and unwavering determination
The true heroes behind Saroj’s success today are his family members.
Saroj’s father, Dharamraj, was an athlete during his school days but gave up on it as he got married at a young age and had children.
The father-of-five noticed potential in his children and decided to not let his limited income affect their futures. He took up the job of a plumber and borrowed money to buy shoes and kits for his children.
The eldest of the siblings, Ajit, was the first to follow his father’s wishes and won gold medals at national level competitions in 800m and 1500m races. His daughters, Shashi and Shastri joined soon too. They have won medals in national level competitions in 10000m and 5000m races and Shastri also won the Indira Marathon.
Due to financial issues, Ajit took up a job in the Railways under the sports quota in Jamshedpur. As the family’s financial conditions improved, Ajit started helping and encouraging his younger brother. “My father took loans from relatives or my brother spent his salary on my training”, Saroj stated in a recent interview with Times Of India.
He also stated that the idea of spending ₹300 on running shoes used to worry him before he started running but once he started running, he focused only on his sport. Saroj’s mother, Rani Devi, shared that Saroj always believed that he would change his family’s destiny and bring awards and pride to India.
Awaiting cash prize to pay off loans
Saroj is waiting for the ₹1.5 Cr prize money from the UP government to pay off his loan of ₹10 lakh for training, to repay his relatives, buy more Vivekananda books and he wishes to build a new house for his parents.
Ajay Saroj’s current job and his future plans
Saroj works in the railways and uses his salary to repay his training loan. His next goal is to win a medal in the 2024 Paris Olympics.