National record holder Priyanka Goswami: Started race walking for bags that medallists got
“Koi abhi bol de mujhse ki do kilometre chal ke le aao kuchh, main cab karne ka sochungi,” quips Priyanka Goswami, the athlete who recently created a national record in women’s 20km race walking, and clinched a berth at the Tokyo Olympics this year. Elated at her victory, the 24-year-old from Uttar Pradesh, says, “I haven’t had the time to rest yet, let alone celebrate. I’ve to get back to training for the Olympics!”
Goswami finished the race in 1:28:45, beating the previous national record of 1:29:54 held by Bhawna Jat, to win the women’s event at the 8th National and International Race Walking Championships 2021 in Ranchi, Jharkhand. Now hoping to win laurels for the country, at her first ever appearance at the Olympics, makes Goswami remembers the time when the pandemic had almost ended her dreams after she missed the qualification mark by a mere 36 seconds at the same event last year. “I worked very hard, and prayed harder, to ensure I qualify for the event that is the biggest sporting opportunity for any athlete. I want to better myself in the coming months. And I’m aiming for 1:27 at the Tokyo Games, to win a medal for India!”
A junior clerk in Indian Railways, her success story had humble beginnings. “I dabbled in gymnastics in school for about six months before trying out athletics. But the truth is that I started running because medallists ko prize mein bags milte the, since Meerut has a lot of sports businesses; I wanted one of those bags so started participating, but didn’t win anything. Then in one race walking event since there were only three girls participating, my coach asked me to walk with them. That’s when I won my first bronze medal, and a bag too,” recalls the race walker, who is at present supporting her family of four financially — mother is a homemaker, younger brother works for a private company, and father works as a bus conductor, but is currently suspended from his job.
The very mention of 20km walk seems like a daunting task to anyone. And Goswami shares that it does take a lot of mental strength. “I used to think races would be 3-5km long. Only when I started participating in nationals did I get to know that it’s 20 kilometres long! Regular time mein it’s boring to walk that far, all alone, but during the competition I’m very focussed,” she adds.
Not many know that when not training, Goswami loves to pose for the camera. “I like to get my photos clicked. I was interested in doing fashion designing too, but it didn’t happen. But I keep up with the trends; I’ll jump at a modelling opportunity if that ever happens (laughs),” she confesses.
Author tweets @bhagat_mallika