Published: 21st October 2021
Wrestler Ravi Dahiya teams up with Smile Foundation to make online education accessible to the underprivileged
Ravi Dahiya's silver at the Tokyo Olympics has made him the apple of India's eyes. We talk to him about his association with Smile Foundation, the importance of education and sports
Akhil Kumar, Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt are names that Ravi Kumar Dahiya looks up to, but with the silver medal he bagged at the recently concluded 2020 Tokyo Olympics, his name will be chanted right along these stalwart wrestlers. "I've looked at all these big-time wrestlers as a child, how calm and peaceful their disposition is despite big wins and, on the other hand, we small-time medal winners think the world of ourselves. People give them unabashed love and respect. That's when I decided that this is the life I want and this is what I want to do," says the two-time Asia Champion with utmost humility, the same quality that endeared him to the masses when he expressed his displeasure over winning silver over the most coveted gold. He smiles sheepishly when we remind him of that moment and he goes on to say, "The time, the atmosphere and everything else was so different. I was very nervous. But I will surely not let it happen again and ensure that I do my best and win the gold next time." Spoken like a true champion.
Education is his cause
Now, the athlete has given us another reason to look up to him. And smile. Dahiya has joined hands with Smile Foundation for their campaign Shiksha Na Ruke. This is specifically for the benefit of those children who were handed the short end of the stick when it comes to online education. As someone who has learnt several lessons from sports, what importance does education and the lessons it teaches us hold in his intense eyes? "At a very young age, if a kid is encouraged in the right direction, they would be capable of doing a lot more. Education can make this happen. Without education, life is nothing," says the wrestler who was appointed as Assistant Director in the Department of Education, Government of Delhi. But is making online education accessible to underprivileged children a dream that can fully and truly be realised? "If we are unable to do a lot, at least we will do something. If we do nothing, nothing will happen," he says with determination.
Hard work is a habit that the youngster, who was born in a small village called Nahri in Sonipat district of Haryana, has painstakingly built. "In 2014-2015, I did well but post that, for two years, I had to struggle a lot. That's when I learnt that if you work well and hard, good things will happen. If you hope that without applying yourself, you will be able to realise your potential, you are mistaken," says Dahiya bluntly. And what about the lessons one can learn from sports, especially children? "If you practice with dedication, you'll be fit. If you are fit, inadvertently you'll be happy and when you are happy, you will be able to do what you truly want. Ultimately, all good work happens when one is happy. Even if you take out some time for your body, it will be beneficial," he advises.
Support is vital
For someone who has been training since the age of ten, family support has been a cornerstone in his life. As the legend goes, his father used to walk about 39 km to deliver fresh milk and fruits, which formed an important part of his wrestling diet. But what happens when an aspiring wrestler doesn't have that kind of support? "It is at the beginning that a child needs the most support. In such instances, organisations like the Smile Foundation can really lend a helping hand," he says sincerely. So, as he gets ready to sign off, what is the message he would like to leave for those youngsters who are looking up to him now? "I'll just say this — work hard with all your heart. You will be successful then."