How village girl Sarita Gayakwad overcame obstacles to win Asian Games gold
mid-day.com exclusive: Gujarat's golden girl Sarita Gayakwad, born to farm labourers in a small village, had to overcome real-life struggles to win gold at the 2018 Asian Games
Sarita Gayakwad, the girl from Gujarat won a gold medal for India in the 4x400 metre team relay event at the 2018 Asian Games. But the real story of Sarita Gayakwad is an inspiring journey of a woman who overcame all obstacles in life to achieve success in Jakarta. Sarita's poor family background was one of the biggest hurdles she had to overcome and her family went through a lot of struggle into making her a successful athlete
Sarita Gayakwad's parents
Sarita Gayakwad hails from Karadi Amba, a remote village in the tribal-dominated Dang district in Gujarat. Dang is also known as the Switzerland of Gujarat for its natural beauty and landscapes. During the monsoons, Dang is a sight to behold.
However, Dang is an economically distressed district and lacks primary facilities. In today's day and age when people have become heavily dependent on the internet, people in Dang don't even have access to a newspaper.
Sarita Gayakwad belongs to Ahva's remote village Karadi Amba, in the district of Dang. The village does not have any roads or means of transportation. To travel somewhere, villagers have to walk 4 to 5 km to get a bus. Mobile phones do not catch reception in Sarita's village and one has to climb a hill nearby to get a cellular network. The village got water facilities only a few months back. There is electricity, but it is uncertain. Therefore it is difficult to imagine, that a girl from such a remote village not only represented India in an international event but also won a gold medal to make Gujarat and the whole country proud.
Sarita Gayakwad posing with all her medals and trophies in her house in Dang district
Fulfilling dreams without the availability of primary facilities was a big challenge for Sarita, but the biggest challenge was financial help. Sarita's mother Ramuben and father LaxmanBhai who are farm labourers have gone through a lot of hardships to raise and educate their children. Sarita is proud of her parents and acknowledges that they have played a huge part in her success.
Sarita's father, who was delighted after his daughter's success said, "In our family, income was low and we had to educate four children. Despite the hardships, we tried our best and now my children have made us proud." Sarita Gayakwad's siblings include one brother and two sisters.
Sarita Gayakwad with her family
Sarita trained in the hilly terrain of Dang, which made her physically tough. She had to climb hills everyday to fetch water for her family as her village lacked proper water storage. Enduring hardships and coping with the challenges of life right from her childhood helped Sarita become mentally tough. Sarita Gayakwad excelled in Kho Kho and participated in numerous competitions including the national games in the sport before taking up athletics.
After schooling, Sarita wanted to pursue her graduation and didn't think about athletics at that time. After getting admission in Chikhali's M.R.Desai Arts and Commerce college, Sarita's coach advised her to take up track running, which was the beginning of her journey into athletics. Sarita Gayakwad started her running and just like her achievements in Kho Kho, she became unbeatable on the track too.
Asian Games Gold Medallist Sarita Gayakwad
Sarita's college played a huge part in grooming her during her struggling years. Sarita didn't have shoes to run nor could she afford to follow a diet regime recommended for athletes, but M.R.Desai college, where she studied, ensured that their student from Dang had all the basic requirements to fulfil her goals. The college officials provided her with shoes and helped her financially too.
Sarita's head coach Jaymal Naik said, 'Sarita was running without shoes, we told her to wear shoes, but she was not comfortable. So she ran without shoes, and won.' After that race, Sarita started to practice with shoes. Nadiad sports authority recognised Sarita's talents and selected her for their training programme. After two years of training in Nadiad, Sarita got a chance to enrol in the National Campat Patiyala.
Sarita excelled at the national level track and field events and finally, Sarita got a chance to don Indian colours when she was selected for the Commonwealth Games in Australia. Though Sarita failed to win a medal at the Commonwealth Games, the international exposure did her good. Subsequently, she performed in other international athletics competitions and tasted success.
Sarita Gayakwad finally proved herself by winning gold in the 4x400 metre team relay in the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games. The quartet of Sarita Gayakwad, M. R. Poovamma, Hima Das and V. K. Vismaya clocked 3:28.72 in the final to clinch the win. Incidentally, Sarita is the first girl from Gujarat to win a relay gold in athletics.
Nicknamed the Dang Express, all eyes will now be on Sarita during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
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