Long-distance runners Preeja Sridharan and Kavita Raut and steeplechase champion, Sudha Singh, have been slugging it out on the domestic scene for years now. But their crowning glory came on a cloudy Sunday evening.
The way they took up the challenge of the marauding Chinese and the Japanese was splashed all over the newspapers in Guangzhou --- and may be across China.
The city is abuzz with news of two frail-looking girls who took the Aoti Sports Complex centre by storm. But a day after their exploits ---- Preeja and Kavita made it a one-two in 10,000m, while Sudha made it to the top in 300m steeplechase --- they were a picture of poise and humility as they stood outside the Athletes' Village with national coach Bahadur Singh and Belarussian trainer for five years Nikolai Snesarev.
It's been a long journey for the three, who have sacrificed their family, friends and other entertainment. Bangalore has been their home for the last 3-4 years and it is the place which shaped their Asian Games medals dream.
As someone approached Preeja, she said humbly, “Aaram se poochiyega....zyada Hindi, English nahin aati (Pose easy questions. I am not too good at Hindi or English,” she said.
The Kerala girl has witnessed many hardships — her father passed away at a tender age, her mother did odd jobs and her elder brother had to quit studies to become a carpenter — wants to finally cherish this moment. “I wanted it for my family, I wanted to alleviate our financial condition,” she said.
For Kavita, who hails from the Adivasi belt of Trimapkeswar near Nasik, a 15-day camp as a sub-junior was enough to inspire her to take up the sport. “After the camp, I went on to win a silver at the 2001 National School games, which was a big booster. The win with a personal best timing is the result of me running in almost all the half-marathons marathons in the country.
Even Sudha, married in 2008 to an Army Subedar and staying in Jabalpur, life has not really been a bed of roses. Hailing from Rae Bareli, her father was a telecommunication inspector with the Railways but egged her on to take to long-distance running.
“He (my husband) too is an athlete, having won the World Military Games bronze in Hyderabad in 2007. So, after marriage, he has been my driving force and I have kept going forward, breaking the steeplechase record five times in the last three years.”
Three champions, hailing from humble backgrounds, made their dream come true here.