In the third story in the series on the future of Indian sports, Patriot takes a look at the youngsters who are currently shining in the Indian athletics scene
It is the year 2020, which signals the start of the biggest event in sports the Olympics, which is scheduled to be held in Tokyo. And like every Olympics, this year too, Indians remain hopeful that the medals tally shows a significant increase as compared to other years.
To do, Indians need to excel in all sports, but It is on the track and field that India needs to improve drastically. We have never won a medal in any athletics category in the Olympics. Milkha Singh and PT Usha came closest to winning one, as they both finished fourth in the 1956 and 1996 Olympics respectively.
But many sport pundits have predicted that India’s athletics scene is the best ever right now with a wide array of talent on display. The forerunner is of course Hima Das, who has bagged five gold medals to her name since 2018 including two at the Asian games and one at the World u-20 athletics championships. Not only is Hima Das is one of India’s medal hopefuls at the 2020 Olympics, she is also touted as one of the best female runners in the world at present.
Dutee Chand is also one of India’s best prospects, having won multiple silver and gold medals to her name.
But apart from these two discernible names, who are the next that are currently rising their ranks in the Indian athletics scene? Here are some of them.
This 16-year-old sprinter from Delhi made the headlines when he clocked 10.76 seconds to take the gold in 100m in last years’ Khelo India Youth Games. He also clocked 21.73 seconds in the 200m. After winning gold in the last edition of Khelo India Youth games, he flew to Jamaica to train in Racers Track Club which is home to Usain Bolt and other legendary athletes.
In this edition of the Youth games, he sailed comfortably to take the heats with 11.09 seconds and marched comfortably to win the finals with a timing of 10.96 seconds
This young lad from Maharastra is a champion when it comes to 110m hurdles. He was the favourite to win the 110m hurdles for U-21 boys. As expected, he raced comfortably through to the finals. On the finals day, though he was expected to ease through to victory, he faced a very strong and tough challenge from Kerala lad Mohammad C. Both were neck and neck till the finish and almost had a photo finish, but somehow Alden Noronha found a way to get past his opponent and sealed the gold medal.
This youngster is from St Dominic Savio school in Mumbai. He had broken two records in Mumbai Schools Sports Association (MSSA) inter-school athletics at the age of 15, Alden finished the 100m hurdles race with a timing of 13.9 seconds, 0.4 seconds faster than the previous record in the Mumbai Schools Sports Association (MSSA) inter-school athletics.
Alden has a strong technique which is very important required for hurdles and this earned him gold in this edition of Khelo India Youth Games
Nithin, hailing from Tamil Nadu, was the fastest athlete in this edition of the Khelo India Youth Games. Karnataka’s Prajwal Mandana gave him a tough fight but eventually lost his lead to Nithin at the 70m mark, and from there on Nithin raced away to victory. Prajwal Mandana took silver and finished the race with one-tenth of a second behind him. He clocked 10.76 seconds to take the gold.
Nithin, when asked about his future goals, answered that he wants to clock 10.2 seconds in 100m and go below 21 seconds in 200m by next year. He is surely progressing towards his goal, as he clocked 21.65 seconds in the 200m heats. Nithin clinched a double by winning the gold in 200m as well, he clocked 21.57 seconds in the finals.
Pune’s Avantika Narale became the fastest youth girl when she clocked 12.36 seconds in the 100m finals of the first Khelo India Youth Games. Her first love happened to be Kabaddi. However, her speed and pace was noticed by her physical trainer Shivaji Mehta and urged her to take up athletics. She then started to train under Sanjay Patankar and from there was no looking back.
Her campaign in the second edition of Khelo India Youth Games started off with a disaster. She was involved in an unusual and controversial start in 100m heats, she never took off and thought that it was false start from one of her fellow competitors but the recall whistle was never blown and the other five athletes finished the race leaving Avantika with a non-finish. But she had put the disappointment away and came out with full energy and focus to win a gold for Maharashtra the very next day in 4x100m relay.
She got off to a good start in the 200m heats; she finished first and raced to the finals easily. She separated herself from the rest of the field and at the 150m mark, it was sure that it’s her race to win. She clocked 24.74 seconds and happened to be the only under-17 girl to finish the race under 25 seconds. In the finals, she took the lead early and from there on she was completely in a different race altogether. She took gold and bettered her heat timing, with clocked 24.47 seconds in the 200m finals.
17-year old, from Delhi, Tejaswin Shankar, broke the Indian National Record by amazing 2.26m jump. After his performance in July 2016, he succeeded to rank 4 in the IAAF’s World Youth rankings and to rank 1 in IAAF’s Asia Youth rankings in High Jump.
He also bagged gold medal by winning the triple jump event at the 32nd Junior Athletic Championship in Coimbatore. Setting up a national record at very early age, he proved his talent and potential of winning medals at international level
Born in 1999 in a small village in Haryana, Beant was trained under the masterful eyes of former Olympian Gurbachan Singh Randhawa.He first caught the eye of the nation when he won gold at the national federation cup with a new national record, at just 15 years old.
His first international medal came when he won the Gold in the 800m in the Asian Youth Athletics, 2015. His timing of 1:52.26s was the fastest in the world that year. He again repeated his Gold medal feat in the World School Championships held on June 2015 in China. Beant’s exploits saw him rise to the World No. 1 position in the under 16 category in running.
In the World Youth Athletics Championship 2015, Beant went on till the semi-final. He secured the 6th rank with a time of 1:52.53s. Beant created a new personal best in the 800m in the National Championships of 2016 with a time of 1:48.51s.
He also recently qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and will now look to challenge the African dominance in the 800-m category
Chitra was born on June 9, 1995, at Mundur in Kerala’s Palakkad District and is the third of four children of Unnikrishnan & Vasantha Kumari, labourers who do menial jobs to make ends meet.
She was a day-boarder at the school and received Rs 25 per day from the Kerala Sports Council and Rs 600 a month from the Sports Authority of India under a scheme for young athletes, which helped in meeting her basic training needs.
In 2011, she won the Gold medal in the 1,500m, 3,000m, 5,000m race and a Bronze in 3km cross country in 56th Indian National School Games, Pune, Maharashtra
The year 2012 marked her gold win in 1,500m, 3,000m and 5,000m race in the 56th Kerala State School Games, Thiruvananthapuram
In 2013, she won gold in the 3,000m race in the first-ever Asian school athletic meet and reached the finish line in 10:05:22.
In 2016, she won gold medals in the 1,500m, 3,000m, 5,000m race and 3km cross country in the 59th Indian National School Games, Ranchi, Orissa.
2016 also was a landmark year for Chithra as she clinched her first international gold at the South Asian World championships, and again followed it up with two medals at the even next year. In 2018 she clinched a bronze at the Asian games in the 1500 m category.