Vishaka Anant Dabholkar beat the scorching sun and ran barefoot to finish third in the 800m girls’ under-17 category of the District Sports Office divisional athletic championships at Priyadarshini Park yesterday.
Vishaka, representing Raigad district, clocked 2:42:03 seconds to finish third, behind gold medallist Isabelle Lobo (2:40:09s) and silver medal-winner Perlin Desara (2:41:09s) — both from Mumbai Surburban District. Vishaka’s school-mate Sangeeta Dhebe, who also ran barefoot finished sixth.
Vishaka, the daughter of a farmer from a remote village — Warangi, in Raigad district’s Mahad taluka, won hearts with her stellar show sans the fancy footwear sported by her competitors.
The Class X student of Mahad’s Jai Jawan Jai Kisan Madhyamik Vidyalaya however, failed to qualify for the State-level meet to be held at the Sports Authority of India in Kandivli next month as only the top two athletes from each event were picked for the same. Vishaka though was happy to have done well on her maiden trip to the mega city.
“For me, the whole atmosphere of the venue here in Mumbai is new. I was nervous before my event, as I have never seen so many athletes at one venue before,” she told MiD DAY.
Track too hot
The synthetic surface didn’t do the girl’s feet any favours either. “Running on the synthetic track was a new experience, since I only run on mud tracks back home. Due to the heat, the track was incredibly hot and that hurt my legs.
Around the halfway mark, I felt dehydrated, but somehow kept running. My aim was not to win a medal, but to finish the race. Next year I will come back and qualify for the state-level competition,” added the 16-year-old.
Vishaka’s coach Santosh Kadam, was proud of his ward. “Vishaka is a very dedicated girl. I am proud that she braved the heat and finished third. For these kids, coming to a city like Mumbai in itself is an experience. The have never run on a synthetic track before. I’m confident Vishaka will come back stronger next year,” said Kadam.
Vishaka also impressed Mumbai Mumbai Surburban District coach Cyril D’Souza. He said: “She is raw and needs to be moulded. She was very good today. Due to lack of experience she missed out on the silver medal. With better infrastructure and expert guidance she could be among the best athletes in her age group.”