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Pinnacle of perseverance

Updated on: 29 February,2024 04:36 PM IST  |  New Delhi
mid-day online correspondent |

The athletics section boosted of at least four new KIUG records at the events played at the Indira Gandhi stadium

Pinnacle of perseverance

Sujata Kujur of Sambalpur University's women’s hockey team poses with the winners’ trophy at the victory ceremony of Khelo India University Games 2023 Ashtalakshmi (Pic: @DDNewslive/X)

It has been tales of grit and determination at the Khelo India University Games 2023, which comes to an end on Thursday, with new meet records achieved and paths set for future star players of the country.

The athletics section boosted of at least four new KIUG records at the events played at the Indira Gandhi stadium.

Pole vaulter M Gowtham of University of Madras cleared the distance of 5m to take home the men's pole vault gold medal.

Javelin thrower Jyoti of Chaudhary Devi Lal University, who had won the gold medal in the National Open Athletics meet in Bengaluru in October last year, came up with a throw of 53.16m in her fourth attempt to clinch the women's javelin throw gold, and also set a new meet record.

In the women's 800m event, Punjab University's Amandeep Kaur clocked 2:11.27s to clinch the gold medal with a new Games record, while Vikash of Chandigarh University registered a new Games record in men's 1500 m clocking 3.50.70s to take the gold.

Chandigarh University looks poised to top medals' tally with 28 golds in its kitty already, followed by Lovely Professional University with 17 golds and Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, with 12 golds.

The KIUG 2023 were held in 18 venues across seven cities of North East, with Guwahati hosting the opening ceremony which was attended by Union Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Anurag Thakur, among others.

More than 4,500 players from over 200 universities competed in the Khelo India University Games 2023.

The KIUG is a part of the Indian government's Khelo India initiative that was launched in 2016, focussing on promoting grassroots sports and identifying young talents from across the country.

For some like Mrinal Chauhan of Lovely Professional University, a second spot in the Recurve men on debut at the KIUG was no mean feat.

With limited financial means to pursue archery which involves high cost training equipment as his family depends on the earnings of his father's stationery shop, Mrinal's early struggles are now nearly over.

Support through the (Tagert Olympic Podium) TOP scheme, a flagship initiative by the ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs, meant that he could take forward his passion, honing his skills at the Tata Archery Academy in Jamshedpur.

"TOPS has allowed me to dream bigger, aim higher. Now, I don't have to dependent on my father for my financial needs as I get stipend every month," the 20-year-old said, adding that the Games were also a vital preparation for the upcoming trials leading to the Paris Olympics qualification events.

Also Read: Maharashtra gymnast Aaryan Davande raises the bar, bags two more gold

Jyoti Kattimai of Karnataka University may have failed to make a podium finish, but her story of fighting tough financial constraints to make this far is an inspiration in itself.

With her father working as a scrap dealer and mother as a housekeeping staff in the same sports hostel in Dharwad where Jyoti trains, it has been a tale of long struggle for the 24-year-old.

Jyoti's family of eight members (including four sisters) expanded to 13 after two of her elder sisters returned home with their children after a few years of marriage, and the family just about pulling along.

She may have had to remain contend with the fifth spot in the 800m for women, but Jyoti hopes to keep on pursuing her game with her coach Shamla Patil being her biggest support, who also sponsors her university fees.

The vital role of coaches in shaping a player or a team cannot be stressed enough, and Bharati Vidyapeeth's rugby team credit their coach for the show they could put up.

Coming in as defending champions, the team did not have high hopes for a podium finish as the core of their team that won the gold in Lucknow last year had passed out of the varsity.

But the team with almost all new players was marshalled brilliantly by Prashant Arvind Singh, who works as a gym instructor in Mumbai, to clinch the bronze medal here.

"It is a big thing for us because we reached here after only 15 days of preparation. We will return next year and win our third gold," said Prashant, who has also represented India at the U-19 level and was part of the silver medal-winning Maharashtra team in the National Games held in Goa last year.

His father, who is a newspaper vendor, was an athlete and his mother was a district level kabaddi player, and both always encouraged their children to take up sports as a career.

But financial problems had forced Prashant to take a break from the sport for a few years.

"I stayed away from sports and took up a job for a while. From 2017 to 2020, I worked as a food delivery agent to support my family and even today I work as a gym instructor. But sports is my first love and I have returned to it," he added.

(With agency inputs)

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