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Friday, Sep 20, 2019

City’s sprint bolt: From Osgood-Schlatter disease to 100m champ-in-the-running

Pune boy Akshay Govardhan feels that competing in front of his own fans may just be the motivation he needs to challenge for an individual medal this time around.

pune Updated: Jan 10, 2019 16:36 IST
Pranav Shahaney
Pranav Shahaney
Hindustan Times, Pune
On consultation with a physiotherapist, Govardhan was informed that the inflammation on his knee was a common disease and no surgery was required for him to outgrow it.
On consultation with a physiotherapist, Govardhan was informed that the inflammation on his knee was a common disease and no surgery was required for him to outgrow it.(MILIND SAURKAR/HT PHOTO)
         

Osgood-Schlatter, a disease common in growing adolescents, has derailed the career of many an athlete, often causing them to lose interest in the sport. However, for Pune medal hopeful at Khelo India 2019, Akshay Govardhan, the minor setback was only something that catapulted him onto greater things, giving him a firm reminder of how the journey has been thus far.

Diagnosed with that condition at the nascent age of 11, it was imperative for him to maintain a positive attitude and on consultation with a physio, he was informed that the inflammation on his knee was a common disease and no surgery was required for him to outgrow it. Now, five years later, he appears to be in the best shape of his career as he eyes two individual gold medals at Khelo India.

Speaking about this condition, post his age verification at the Balewadi sports complex, Govardhan stated, “Having my bone growing faster than my body was very painful. I was 11 at the time and had only started running. At times, it became hard for me to even walk. After taking an ultrasound, I was lucky that there was no other problem, so we focused on my recovery. I was given a few exercises that I had to do regularly and that helped me outgrow it.”

Being a local lad and a medal hopeful because of glowing team performances in the 2018 Khelo India edition, where he won gold in the 4x100 relay, Khelo India 2019 comes at the perfect time and place for the 16-year-old and he feels that the competing in front of his own fans may just be the motivation he needs to challenge for an individual medal this time around.

The Pune boy’s 2019 campaign commenced on Thursday. He says, “This is my home ground and there will be a lot of people I know who’ll be cheering for me, but one must know how to handle pressure or fame. Competing in front of people I know can actually give me a huge boost. I see myself in the finals of the 100m and 200m events and I’m hoping to win or at least get a medal this time. Even if I don’t, it’s still been an eye opening experience and I can only learn from it.”

Having one parent who’s a former athlete, a successful one no less, track events have been in the genes of the Govardhan family. His father Subodh won numerous medals during his heyday and has set the bar extremely high for his son who’s not only looking to match, but also better his father’s accomplishments of the past.

Despite discussing athletics almost every night at the dinner table, Varsha, Akshay’s mother, needed some convincing in allowing her son to pick athletics as a career, knowing it could have a negative impact on his life.

Explaining how he managed to get the green signal from his mother, Govardhan said, “My parents have been very supportive in my career choices. My mother backed me completely, but was a little shocked at first. She was into academics, so when I told her I wanted to do sports, she said, ‘Okay, you can do it as a hobby and keep academics as your main focus.’ That’s when my father stepped in and explained how both could be done at the same time, while telling me to make athletics my priority.”

It’s been five years of competing at a very high level, but Govardhan isn’t one to rest on his past laurels. Having impressed at numerous nationals, winning an array of medals, he is continually working on improving his timings and is extremely serious about his training and diet.

Another potential distraction is that of social media and other technological advancements that can easily influence kids to live a sedentary mode of life, but that’s certainly not the Pune lad’s cup of tea. In his own admission, he feels incapable to relate to such games or people engaging in valuable hours playing those games, solely focusing on what matters the most to him: the race track.

“I’m not interested in electronic gadgets and that’s solely because of athletics. I believe every sport can improve your personality and character. It’s made me more disciplined in terms of my lifestyle, the importance of things like keeping the right diet and exercising daily has all been taught to be by the sport,” says Govardhan.

A good performance at Khelo India 2019 will certainly get the athletics’ faithful talking about his achievements and what the future has in store for him. However, he doesn’t seem to be thinking of fame at this early age as he believes such things can get to the heads of people, hindering their progress in the bargain.

“I have actually seen the performance of a few people decrease with the added fame so I keep reminding myself that I don’t want to be like that. Even if I don’t reach where I have to, I got to keep going and keep working on myself. Hopefully, I aim to break the national record and I strive to keep myself grounded even if I do,” he says

“I was competing 35 years ago at the school and Zilla Parishad level as beyond that our schools did not allow. I won around 30 medals and 17-18 golds. I have told Akshay that these are his golden years and that medals don’t matter, but he should be focused on giving his personal best. Despite this, he’s still continuing to win medals along with improving his timings. He’s 16 now, so in five years I’m hoping he is one of India’s better athletes and representing the country at international events,” said, Subodh Govardhan, Akshay’s father

First Published: Jan 10, 2019 16:33 IST