Womenfolk of Agroha, a village in Hisar district, are generally sturdy. It has got to do with the tradition of not shirking hard work. Strenuous jobs like cutting fodder or milking cows is commonplace. Perhaps, Krishna Poonia owes her stocky frame to years of hard work, especially as a teenager. Coming from a family of farmers, working on the field and dairy farming came naturally to her. The rigorous physical activity and a diet high in nutritional value made her a towering figure and today Poonia, who stands six-feet tall, is perhaps the most imposing female track-and-field athlete in the country.
Hailing from a conservative background, her family didn't encourage girls participating in sport and it was not until she enrolled in college that Krishna took up sports seriously.
It came as manna from heaven when Krishna - the second of three children of Maha Singh Sura - was given the nod to enroll in a college in Hisar. That was the beginning of her journey to stardom. "We wanted her to gain more knowledge," says Maha Singh of his decision to let Krishna pursue higher studies despite the family's conservative background. His wife had passed away when Krishna was five, and Maha Singh was keen his children did not feel the void and gained knowledge to enjoy a good life.
A reticent girl, Krishna spent the first few months in college all by herself, but a college sports meet changed all that. "I was thrilled when I took part in the meet," says Krishna, recalling the butterflies in her stomach when she entered the throwing arena in her first year in college. Being physically strong, Krishna quickly adapted to the rigours of training. The college turned out to be a perfect platform. While the progress was marginal, it was a big motivating factor to pursue the sport. Her initiation into the competitive world didn't go smoothly. A minor back injury got aggravated in NIS, Patiala and she was sidelined. At one point, medical experts even ruled her out of the sport. But self-belief and the drive to excel enabled her to return to active sport sooner than expected.
She made a comeback to the national scene in 2003. Her husband-cum-coach, Virender, says every day was a struggle. "Every day there was this fear of the injury flaring up."
In 2005, Krishna raised her performance a few notches, clinching a podium finish in the Asian championship in Incheon. "It acted as a catalyst to train harder," she says. As she trained harder, it became increasingly difficult for her to spare time for her son, Lakshaya. But the mother always made it a point to bring home loads of candy every time she won a medal. While baser medals were dime a dozen, Krishna wasn't succeeding in laying her hands on gold. Her wish was fulfilled when she became the first Indian track-and-field athlete to win gold in the Delhi CWG. Lakshaya was there watching his mother from the stands.
Today, Lakshaya (11) is old enough to remind his mother of doing well at the Games. This time too, Lakshaya will be there, motivating Krishna to pull off a coup in London.