From Poverty to Gold Medals-These four young boys from Meghalaya fight against all odds


The Northeast region has become the hub for scouting sporting talent with so many footballers and athletes coming up from the region. We even have 8 amazing personalities who are representing the country at the Rio Olympics. The road to get recognized is a long and arduous one and it takes grit, strength and determination to be able to succeed. There are however still so many sports which are still very widely ignored and even with medals and silverware, it seems that even that isn't enough to get the credit that athletes deserve.

Four boys from the village of Smit in Meghalaya have made the state proud a number of times by winning gold at different kick boxing competitions which have been hosted around the country (Delhi, Kolkata , Pune and Haryana). They all come from what can only be described as extremely humble backgrounds and raised mainly by single mothers.  These four named Lamphrang Kharsahnoh (21), Pynnehbor Mylliemngap (20), Elbring Umbah(20) and Nangteishaphrang Nongkynrih(11) have been training for a long time and overcome many obstacles to win medals for the state.

Lamphrang has been training for the past three years and won medals in Haryana, Kolkata and Delhi. His mother works in a tea stall and he has finished his class 12. He is very passionate about kick boxing and would like to join the armed forces through sporting merit. Pynnehbor is only 20 but has been training for 11 long years; he is raised by his single mother and taken care of by his older sibling who works at the Public Health Centre. He has stopped studying as the costs were getting too much. His brother passed away recently and he talked of how he too was a black belt just like him.

Pynneh and Lamphrang

Elbring won bronze at a recent Kolkata event and gold in Delhi, he dropped out of school after class 8 as he had to help his parents, both of whom are farmers. He hopes to be able to complete school one day but it is very difficult when making a living is more important.

Elbring and Nangtei

The youngest Nangtei is a bright young boy who is still in school and is now in class 5. He started training when he was only 5 years old and has also won gold for the state. All these boys are very dedicated and even with the circumstances of poverty, their families support them completely. Nangtei's mother was brimming with joy and pride while speaking of her son and showing off his certificates and medals. Their families are happy that they channel their energy into sport rather than other unproductive activities.

They are all trained by Donny Ranee who has given up and sacrificed so much to help these young boys achieve their dreams. Donny who is one of the pioneers of martial arts started his journey way back in 1974 and till now he struggles to find a way to get recognition especially for Wushu and Kickboxing which these young boys do.  Donny spoke to TNT-The Northeast Today and lamented on how 42 years has passed since he first took up martial arts but it has still not proved fruitful; he has given up personal comforts not just for himself but also his family. His son Francis who has also followed in his father's footsteps will hopefully have better luck with the sport getting more popular. Donny realizes that at an amateur level, the boys will not earn any money, but he hopes they can compete and go PRO sometime soon.

Nangtei, Pynneh and Lamphrang (L to R)

What is at the same time heartening and disheartening is that the boys train without any proper gym or any proper equipment. They do not even have a kick boxing ring but yet, every national championship that takes place, these young boys bring gold back to the state. Their skill and talent is unparalleled and we can only imagine how much better they can get with the right infrastructure and equipment. Recently, they were all invited to Russia for an event but because of lack of funds and the boys not having passports, they could not go. They however have another national championship this weekend in Andhra Pradesh and coach Donny talked of the difficulties of even coming up with those funds. Even though they have brought the state great pride, they do not receive any recognition and he still has to go around trying to come up with money for the championships. Travelling by sleeper class to every national event, the boys make the most of it as most of them wouldn't think they would ever travel outside the state.

From Andhra Pradesh they will then get to fight either in Europe or Korea depending on how they rank. The boys are very optimistic and hope that this time their foreign trip does happen for them. Nangtei who is only 11 is too young to qualify for this event but he has already been called for one in 2017 which will take place in Poland. His mother who is a vegetable seller just wants to see her son succeed in life. He is quite short in comparison to his classmates and gets bullied in school as schoolboys want to take him on as he is a gold medalist, but his mother states that she teaches him everyday never to use his strength even when people to get the better of him.

Speaking to the Sardar of Smit— K.M. Syiem, he talks about how difficult it is to get funds for the boys and how he is trying to ensure that their trips do take place. Coach Donny who has funded so many of the trips is also skeptical as he has been in the business so long but is yet to see any change. However, he remains optimistic and hopeful that these young boys will get their due as they have put in their time and effort. Coach also adds that in the recent National Games held in Kerala, three athletes who train under him were the only ones from the state to bring back medals but with the sad state of affairs, none of the three were recognized as winners here. This greatly saddens him and he still hopes that martial arts will hold a bigger place in the sporting world especially in the state of Meghalaya.

(By Jessica Passah)

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