For India, a triathlon first at CWG
Sanjana Joshi, Pragnya Mohan, Adarsh Muralidharan Nair and Vishwanath Yadav – will break the glass ceiling, representing India in a major event for the first time ever
As four Indian triathletes went through route familiarisation in Birmingham on Thursday, there were quite a few curious glances thrown at them. Triathlon, which combines three sports -- swimming, cycling and running, made its CWG debut in 2002, in Manchester. It is now one of the world's most popular endurance events, having first made its way into the Olympic programme in the 2000 Sydney Games. India, however, has no footprint in triathlon at the global level. At best, it is regarded as a recreational sport in the country. On Friday, four triathletes -- Sanjana Joshi, Pragnya Mohan, Adarsh Muralidharan Nair and Vishwanath Yadav – will break the glass ceiling, representing India in a major event for the first time ever.
The four will compete in individual sprint distance events on Friday and also a mixed team relay event later. They were all excited to have made the tough journey of qualification without any funding and sponsors coming their way. All they hope now is that their participation in Birmingham will draw eyeballs in India and open the way for the sport. Qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics is their target, but, for now, they are soaking in the ambience in Birmingham and living a beautiful dream.
“We are here not just to participate, but to give our best. As a team we are really very excited and looking forward to our races,” said Mohan from Birmingham. “I hope our participation becomes a gamechanger for the sport in the country and increases the popularity of the sport so that it is taken up by youngsters as a professional sport,” she says.
The women's race on Friday will have both Tokyo Olympics gold medallist Flora Duffy (Bermuda) and silver medallist Georgia Taylor-Brown (Great Britain) in action.“CWG is one of the toughest competitions in our sport. When you have an Olympic champion, the world champion and some of the world’s best in the line-up, you know it is going to be top class, and for us to be here is a huge achievement. For us to speak to them and compete with them is a learning experience,” says Pragnya, who is ranked 372 in the world rankings.
The race begins with an open water swim (750m) and transitions into a cycle ride (20km), before finishing with a run (5km). It's a fast and frenetic version of the event. The Indian team had their training session in Sutton Park lake and went through the route they will take on Friday.
“In triathlon, it is rare for an Indian to compete at this level. So quite a few of them were pleasantly surprised and spoke to us,” says 17-year-old Sanjana. The Nagpur girl was impressive during the selection trials. “There is no support from any sponsor or corporates and my coach helped in managing all the finances,” she says.
It has been a long road for 27-year-old Mohan, a chartered accountant, whose love for triathlon saw her dive deep into the sport in her quest to represent India at the Olympics. Her father Pratap Mohan, a marathoner from Ahmedabad, coached his daughter before she travelled to Spain and Australia and trained under different coaches. She is a South Asian Champion and became the first triathlete to represent India at the Triathlon World Cup in Spain in 2019.
“It has been a long journey for me. I had a lot of adventure, got to meet so many people from different backgrounds, raced with them, and used different cycles. I learned Spanish to be able to communicate with my coach.”
She has twice had scary accidents but that did not deter her from leaving the sport. “In Australia, I was cycling, going downhill, and met with an accident – there were two potholes I did not see. I hit my head, the helmet saved me, I was taken to a hospital in an ambulance and my friends later told me that I lost my memory for 10hrs that day.”