Track and field has been a topic of discussion in the Indian sport since Neeraj Chopra’s javelin throw gold at the Tokyo Olympics. This is as good a time as any to attract attention with a strong performance, yet it is not often that a junior outperforms the seniors in a national level meeting.
This week, 16-year-old Rupal Choudhary from Uttar Pradesh won the Under-18 girls’ section of the 3rd National Open 400m Championship at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi. Her timing was better than the winners of the under-20 and senior women’s categories.
It was a reward for the hard work put in by the young man. A top junior in the country, Rupal travels from Meerut to Nehru Stadium twice a week to train on synthetic track as there are no facilities in the Uttar Pradesh city.
The only daughter of a farmer – she has a brother – Rupal is traveling to Delhi with her two coaches – husband-wife duo of Vishal Saxena and Amita – since 2017, a distance of more than 250 km, including 50 from her village. km is included. , Janipur to Meerut.
“I have to travel to achieve my mission, which is the Paris Olympics of 2024. There is no athletics facility at Government’s Kailash Prakash Stadium in Meerut. She was the fastest among women in the focused 400m meet, clocking a personal best of 53.73s. His emotional celebration with Amita showed what it meant for Roopal.
This is Rupal’s third win at the national level. Vandana Sharma, who won the women’s event in the absence of some of India’s top 400m runners, clocked just 55.01s. After breaking the long-standing state record in the UP State Meet, the teenager has steadily improved in the 2019 Junior Nationals with a time of 55.37 seconds.
“The 2016 Rio Olympics brought me into the sport after reading about the achievements of Sakshi Malik and PV Sindhu,” says Roopal. The 11-year-old girl asked her father to take her to the stadium. “My father did not want me to go into sports as the people of my village were against any kind of freedom to girls. My mother stood by me and asked my father to take me to the stadium for training.
Rupal’s first significant move was to win the 400m at the 2018 state meet in Lucknow. “That win made a difference, I realized I had the ability to run at the top level,” says Rupal. “I could have chosen another sport, but my financial situation did not allow it. Athletics was less expensive,” she says.
“Athletics is my lifeline. I was very upset when the people of my village told my father not to let me join sports. I decided to change that mindset by achieving something respectable in the sport and now I am a member of my village. I am seeing that change in people,” says Rupal, who praises Hima Das, who holds the national record of 50.79 seconds.
Rupal has the 10th fastest time in the under-18 girls category in the world this year. Her focus is on building strength and speed. “I am looking for my first international performance. I feel if I can improve my strength and speed, I can easily break Jisna Mathew’s national record in the under-18 category (53.14 secs).
Rupal’s successive medals at the national level has also changed the thinking of his father Ombir Singh. “When I initially stopped Rupal from doing the game, she went on a hunger strike against my decision. In the end, his mother forced me to take him to the stadium.
“It was not easy for me in the beginning, but now I feel proud, people give me more respect because of Rupal’s success in the sport. I am glad that I was forced to change my decision then,” says Ombir Whose son is training to join the Uttar Pradesh Police. “It was difficult to strike a balance between spending time for Rupal’s training and managing my field, but I had no other option.”
Like most sprinters, Rupal initially wanted to run only 100m and 200m, but her coach Saxena, a former national level athlete, encouraged her to run 400m. “His (Rupal) height and build was best suited for 400 meters, so we thought of diverting his attention to this event, and it is a huge success now,” he says.
Saxena, a 200m silver medalist at the 2006 South Asian Games in Colombo and a gold medalist in the 4x100m relay, and his wife Amita—she is a medalist at the Asian Grand Prix—have high hopes from Rupal. They want him to participate in next year’s Commonwealth Games and Asian Games.
India has a good number of women 400m runners, although in recent times the focus of the national federation has been on the relay event. A strong sprinter capable of challenging Hima Das’s time would be welcome, especially when Hima Das is battling a back injury.
Rupal is on the rise and we are hopeful that she will qualify for the Asiad and Commonwealth Games. If everything goes according to plan, Rupal will make it to the Indian team for the Paris Olympics,” says Saxena.