The inspiring story of runaway kid-turned kickboxing champ Shivalak Raj
27-year-old Shivalak Raj, hailing from the village of Madhepur in Bihar, is all prepared to contest for his spot in the World Kickboxing Championship 2017 to be held in Budapest, Hungary in November.
However, Raj's ascent to the national kickboxing team has been anything but normal.
The world-class sportsman ran away from his home nearly two decades ago.
Read about his inspiring story.
Shivalak Raj: The runaway-turned kickboxing champion
Raj's escape from his abusive parents
Rebuked all the time by his stepmother, seven year-old Raj used to work as a domestic help at a judge's house to aid his father who ran a small grocery shop.
One day, Raj, beaten up by the judge's son, objected to working there anymore.
Upon hearing his complaint, Raj's father also thrashed him, following which Raj left home for Delhi.
Still rejected by his parents, Raj sometimes visits his brothers
"Even though I remembered my address, I didn't want to return. I went back only after becoming a national karate champion, but my father was indifferent. My brothers, however, cried. I sometimes meet my brothers," said Raj, who has returned home only once in 2006.
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Raj's tough life on the streets of Delhi
Raj had planned to go to his uncle's house in Delhi, but couldn't find it.
He resorted to working for a tea stall owner at the railway station in exchange for food and shelter.
He soon quit his job and started ragpicking, following which he got picked by an NGO and was brought to a shelter home in Delhi.
Raj's foray into the world of martial arts
Raj was admitted to school by the NGO, and around Class X, was taught karate.
He showed a natural inclination for the martial art, and soon got enrolled at the YMCA.
At the YMCA, Raj's talent got spotted by his coach who referred him to the Chhatrasal Stadium.
In 2005, Raj won a silver medal at the Asian Games, thus kickstarting his career.
Raj's stellar career in the martial arts
Despite his tough and humble start, Raj excelled at karate and got a black belt.
He went on to win 25 gold medals at the national level, and five gold and two silver medals in international karate championships.
In 2010, he started kickboxing, and within a year, won a gold medal at the 18th National Kickboxing Championship.