As we head towards the second week of the 19th Commonwealth Games, the country is enjoying a windfall in terms of gold medals. But this bronze medal came with an extra lustre.
Athletics medals are always special at the Commonwealth Games, given the standard of the competition -- track medals even more so. The fact that the last Indian medal in an individual event on the track came 52 years ago underlines the point.
On a humid light when many of her fellow competitors wilted, Kavita refused to give up and had her reward, becoming the first Indian woman to win an individual track medal and joining an exclusive club.
Kavita’s story began in Nasik years ago. Hailing from a tribal family that struggled to make a living, her talent in running has taken her far from her roots, with hard work as the key all along.
“I really worked hard for this success. Credit should go to my coaches Vijender Singh and Nikolai Snesarev,” said the 25-year-old Kavita, tired but elated after her success.
Kavita’s has been a steady but unspectacular presence on the national running scene but over the last two years, she has made impressive progress to come to the forefront of the bunch trained by Belarus coach Snesarev.
Preeja Sreedharan was the leader of that pack till recently. The little Kerala girl didn’t seem to have the pace to make a mark at the senior national level but she proved her detractors wrong, setting a couple of national records in 2008, with a best of 32:04.41.
But her friend and turning partner Kavita has taken over, impressing in road races and national level meets as Preeja struggled with injuries and illnesses. Kavita has the bigger medals too, with twin successes – bronze in the 5,000M in a personal best time of 16:05.90 and silver in the 10,000M – at the Asian Championships in Guangzhou last year. The Guangzhou medals revealed the grit of the Maharashtrian, who battled it hard with the leading runners of the continent before seizing her chance, much similar to the way she approached her task in New Delhi in a field that included the likes of Kenyans Grace Momanyi and Doris Changeywo.
Preeja, again struck down by illness, was reduced to tears after a medal slipped out from her grasp but for Snesarev, it was a joyful moment, with the coach pointing out that systematic training under similar conditions was the reason for Kavita’s success.
For the athlete herself, the journey is far from finished. “I want to do well in the Asian Games; improve my timings and go for the gold,” the ONGC employee, who has a best of 32:41.31, said. That might be a bit far-fetched but after her exploits in Guangzhou last year and her morale-boosting bronze on Friday, Kavita can certainly aim high.