Khelo India University Games: Labourer’s son leaves behind opponents to clinch gold in 10,000m racewalk

May 29, 2023 10:27 PM IST

Kumar, 22, achieved the first position clocking 30 minutes and 55.88 seconds in the 10,000 m category. However, racewalking wasn’t his first career choice.

LUCKNOW Remember the iconic Forrest Gump dialogue -- “you have to do the best with what God gave you”. A living testament to the effectiveness of this advice is racewalker Pradeep Kumar, who won the gold medal at the ongoing Khelo India University Games on Monday.

Pradeep Kumar (HT Photo)
Pradeep Kumar (HT Photo)

Kumar, 22, achieved the first position clocking 30 minutes and 55.88 seconds in the 10,000 m category. However, racewalking wasn’t his first career choice. He dreamed of a job in the Indian Army but was rejected due to his short height. Later, someone told him that if he excels in sports, he would have a shot in the Army through sports quota.

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Thereafter, young Pradeep started training for running but now his goals are not restricted to joining the Army. He has set a very high bar for himself. Currently pursuing an M.A. in History at Rajasthan University, he is residing in Hanumangarh district. “My father works as a labourer in our village. He works in people’s fields. I have an elder brother who works as a furniture maker. I also have a younger brother. I have been staying in Kher village in Najafgarh, Delhi, for a year now. Earlier, I stayed in Shri Ganganagar for four to five years,” he said.

Kumar came to Delhi from Shri Ganganagar as he used to fall ill frequently there. “I started racing in 2018. Boys from my village used to practice running to get recruited into the Army. I used to run with them too. I slowly learnt about the game and started thinking of a future in this sport. I was short-heighted, so I couldn’t join the Army. When I learnt about the sports quota, I started taking sports seriously.”

Speaking about his coach, he said, “Surendra Bishnoi is my coach in Shri Ganganagar. He is also my mentor. He came to Delhi in October last year. This is the first time I am participating in the University Games. Prior to this, I participated in the Khelo India Youth Games held in Guwahati. I secured the fifth position there with a timing of 32 minutes.”

It is noteworthy that the national record for the 10,000 meters is held by Surendra Singh. Singh set the national record with a time of 28:02.89 minutes in the Spanish Olympic trials in Vigo in 2008. When asked about reaching that timing, Pradeep said that his personal best is 29:20.55 and with support and assistance, he can achieve it.

“My personal best is 29:20.55. This timing was achieved during the West-South Zone Championship in January this year. After that, I participated in the All-India event in March, where I ran a race in 29:45. At that time, I contracted dengue fever. Next week, I have trials for the World University Games in Bhubaneswar, which is why I took it easy in Lucknow to avoid injury. Even before this race, my health was not good,” he added.

Speaking about the facilities at the KIUG, he said, “The facilities here are excellent. Players don’t have to incur any expenses. It is a big support for players like me who come from a poor background. Such events provide encouragement to players like us. We get an opportunity to progress. The competition level here is also good. The boy who came in second place, Rohit Kumar (Guru Nanak Dev University), was just 30.55.94 minutes behind me. I managed to win somehow by advancing my chest.”

However, Kumar’s dream is to bring glory to the country but he needs government or corporate support for that. “I want to bring glory to the country. I just need support. I need sponsors. I need a job. I can do this. I have participated in the National Championship more than 20 times. In every event, I have won gold or silver for Rajasthan.”

Kumar is saddened by the fact that despite achieving so much for Rajasthan, he has not received any financial assistance or job assurance from the state government. “The state government is very indifferent towards athletes. When I win a medal, the announcement of an award is made but it is only limited to papers. They publish it in the newspapers but in reality, nothing is received. I applied for a job two years ago but nothing has happened so far. We even staged a protest but it didn’t reach the ears of the government.”

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