This Asian Athletics Championship was special for India, not only athletes performed really well in front of their crowd but also topped the medal tally for the first time in the event’s 44-year span defeating China.
This was the biggest edition in the tournament’s history – comprising of 655 athletes from 45 nations competing in 47 events. And at such a big stage, the Indian athletes did not disappoint and bagged India’s richest haul of medals at the continental extravaganza.
In this special tournament, a special star emerged for India in the form of PU Chitra, 22-year-old who won gold in the women’s 1500m event, ahead of China’s Geng Min and Japan’s Ayako Jinnouchi.
She clocked a time of 4:17.92, nearly seven seconds better than her previous personal best and has been touted as a star to watch out for in the coming future.
Like most Indian athletes, her journey to success has been one riddled with hardships and continuous battle against the odds.
Hailing from a small village named Mundur in Palakkad district, Kerala, her parents are both daily-wage agricultural labourers. She began running at school level, starting barefoot and without proper spikes. Her talent was identified by coach Sijin NS, a physical education teacher in her school, who motivated and pushed her to test her limits.
“I’m proud of Chitra’s performance and I’m glad that a PE teacher like me could mould an athlete from a village with limited facilities to the world stage,” Sijin told TOI after his ward’s groundbreaking win.
From 2012-2014, Chitra totally ruled the school circuit winning gold medals at state, national and Asian level.
But now, the challenge will be much higher & the stage would be much bigger. Chitra is all set to represent India at at the World Championships in London next month, which is sure to be a monumental step for the youngster.
However, like so many before her, Chitra’s main concern remains to get a job and support her parents, who continue to work in agriculture. She lives in a small hut in her village with her parents, grandparents and three other siblings, and as she prepares for the biggest tournament of her life, her primary wish is to ensure her parents do not have to struggle anymore.
“My first aim is to get a job. My parents have been working so hard for such a long time and I want to be able to do something for them now,” she said.
She was awarded TATA Nano after her performances at the Asian School Championships that saw her win three gold medals but unfortunately she has no way to keep or maintain them, and no space to even park them!
She will be the third Indian woman after Preeja Sreedharan and OP Jaisha to compete in the 1500m event at the World Championships. Her aim in London remains to give her best and make a further improvement in her timings.
Chitra, who idolises the legendary PT Usha, has all the makings of a future champion and if she can continue her good run of form, she can emulate her role model and make a unique name for herself in the sport!