11 Iconic Athletes with Rags to Riches stories, Read how they touched the pinnacle of Success

When we see people on television, a lot of us start to empathize and envy them. We wonder what it would like to be in their place; successful and rich. We take a poke at them whenever we can, and at many times curse them for “having it all”.

But have we ever stopped and wondered what it took for some of them to get where they are? Aside from all the glamour, we see that many of the celebrities are people that deserve to be where they are, given the fact that they have sacrificed a lot of their time and hard work.

Many of them have come from poverty-stricken backgrounds, and their stories of how they came from rags to riches should be a  lesson to all of us. Let’s take a look at a few of the most inspiring rags to riches stories of athletes around the globe:  

1. Arnold Schwarzenegger:  

11 Iconic Athletes with Rags to Riches stories, Read how they touched the pinnacle of Success

Arnold Schwarzenegger is arguably one of the most influential, inspirational, and famous people around the world. Arnold and his family were extremely poor. But according to him, he was rich because he had a dream.  

With that dream in his mind and up to 6 hours a day training at the gym, going to college, working in construction, sleeping 5 hours a day, and going for acting classes about 3 times a week, Arnold became an actor, the 38th governor of California, and a bodybuilding God where he dominated the competition and won a total of 7 Mr Olympia championships. He is also the youngest person to ever win a Mr Universe, at the age of 20.  

2. Cristiano Ronaldo:  

Cristiano Ronaldo grew up in Madeira, where he cleaned the streets with his mother to make ends meet and shared a room with three of his siblings. He was extremely poor, and his mother tried to abort him several times.  

Due to his work ethic and disciplined mindset, Ronaldo is now one of the best football players in the world,  the highest-paid and most famous athlete in the world, the most followed person on Instagram, and has a net worth of 500 million USD.  

3. Lionel Messi:  

Born in Argentina, Lionel Messi was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency, and his parents could not afford the treatment. Messi was poor and used to serve tea in order to support his football training at Barcelona.  

Today, Lionel Messi is one of the greatest football players in the world, with a net worth of about 400  million USD. He is often called out jokingly for being an alien or God due to his inhuman footballing abilities.  

4. LeBron James:  

11 Iconic Athletes with Rags to Riches stories, Read how they touched the pinnacle of Success

LeBron James was born in Ohio, US. Lebron spent most of his childhood being homeless, living in as many as 6 locations in a year. All that changed with the help of his football coach Frank Walker, who gave him food and shelter and help turn his life around.

After many years of immense hard work, Lebron James is now widely considered as one of the greatest basketball players in history, often being compared to Michael Jordan. He is the only player to have won  3 NBA Championships with 3 different franchises.  

5. Connor McGregor: 

Connor McGregor said in an interview that at one point things were so bad for him that he didn’t even have a pot to pee in! Connor used to work as a plumber, which he hated.  

With immense training, diet, and dedication, he is ranked #9 in the UFC lightweight rankings. He is the biggest PPA ( PAY-PER-VIEW) in MMA history and was ranked as the world’s highest-paid athlete by  Forbes, with a net worth of 200 million.  

6. Diego Maradona:  

11 Iconic Athletes with Rags to Riches stories, Read how they touched the pinnacle of Success

Maradona was born in Argentina in a poor family that was allegedly the poorest in his town. His father struggled to make ends meet as a bricklayer and factory worker.  

Through hard work and struggle, Maradona became one of the greatest football players of the 20th century, a title which he shares with another great player. He was nicknamed “ El Pibe De Oro”, which translates to “The Golden Boy” because of his skills on the football pitch. He was also the first player to set the world record transfer fee.  

7. Mary Kom:  

Mary Kom also known as “Magnificent Mary” is a name that everyone is familiar with. She is the first  Indian female boxer to earn a medal for her nation at the Olympics. Mary’s story is one filled with desire,  hard work, and passion. At a time when people were against the idea of women in boxing she persevered and proved that everything is possible with hard work and dedication. She is the eldest daughter to parents who used to work on a ‘jhum’ farm.

Mary grew up working in the fields helping her parents meet ends. Initially, her decision to take up boxing was not taken too well by her parents who later agreed due to her undeniable talents. She holds a long list of achievements some of which include, the Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan, five times winner of Women’s World Amateur Boxing Championship, won a gold medal in the Commonwealth Games, 2018. The list just goes on. She is one of the most prominent and exceptional role models that the youth of today could have.  

8. Vijender Singh  

Vijender was born into a poor family where they had very little going on. His father was a bus driver in  Haryana roadways and reportedly did not even have enough money to pay for his boxing lessons. Through perseverance, Vijender went on to become the first Indian boxer to win an Olympic medal in 2008.

He has many successful years as a boxer with one bronze medal in the World Championship, three silver medals in Commonwealth games, two medals, one bronze and one gold at the Asian Games, and a silver and a  bronze in Asian Championships. He is also the recipient of the Arjuna Award and the Padma Shri.  

9. Deepika Kumari  

Another such story of the phoenix rising from the ashes is that of Deepika Kumari. Daughter of an auto-rickshaw driver and nurse, Deepika had financial difficulties as she was growing up. She did not get proper pieces of equipment to train with until she Tata Archery Academy in Jamshedpur, until which she used to 

train with homemade bamboo now and arrows. Her hard work finally paid off when she won the gold medal in the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Additionally, she is also the recipient of the Arjuna Award and the Padma Shri.  

10. Irfan Pathan:  

Irfan and his brother Yusuf belonged to an impoverished family and grew up in a mosque located in Baroda but grew up to be great assets to the Indian Cricket Team. Irfan emerged as India’s next all-rounder after  Kapil Dev following his impressive debut in cricket.

He was declared the Man of the Match in his first T20  World Cup when he played against Pakistan in the finals. In the year 2004, he was also named the ICC  Emerging Player of the Year. Irfan along with his brother Yusuf now has a cricket academy in Baroda known as the Cricket Academy of Pathans (CAP). 

11. Bhawna Jhat

Hailing from Kabra in Rajasthan’s Rajsamand district, Bhawna Jhat etched her name into the record books after she became India’s first woman race walker to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. However, her journey wasn’t that easy.

Talking about her struggles to Sportskeeda, she said, “My father had only two bighas of land in our village. There was a time when we used to eat just one meal a day because the amount we produced on the farm was less. We all lived in a mud hut and I used to train in a small makeshift field near my house at night so that the village elders wouldn’t come to know. I used to train barefoot then.”

TheYouth Staff
TheYouth is India's number one youth oriented media. This is the staff of editors.