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Pavana hasn’t fallen far from the athletic tree

Pavana’s father BG Nagaraj was a national and international sprinter while mother Sahana Kumari was a high-jumper, who still holds the national record for her leap of 1.92 metres.
Last Updated : 26 April 2024, 16:19 IST
Last Updated : 26 April 2024, 16:19 IST

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Bengaluru: When Pavana Nagaraj won the long jump gold at the ongoing Asian U-20 Athletics Championship in Dubai on Thursday night, it came as no surprise for athletics is ingrained deeply in the Bengalurean’s blood.

Pavana’s father BG Nagaraj was a national and international sprinter while mother Sahana Kumari was a high-jumper, who still holds the national record for her leap of 1.92 metres. So, it was only natural for the 18-year-old, who sealed gold with a jump of 6.32 metres in her third attempt in the desert city, to pursue a career in athletics.

“Since both Sahana and I were athletes, the discussion at home was always centred around athletics. Sports was our life and it has rubbed onto Pavana. I’m so thrilled that she has kicked off her career with a gold at the Asian meet. We have big plans for her and I feel this is just the start,” Nagaraj, who has competed in Commonwealth Games and several other international meets, told DH.

Although there was no escaping the sight and sound of athletics given both her parents were active competitors during her growing-up period, the primary motivation for Pavana to take the sport was her mother. Giving birth to Pavana at the peak of her career didn’t deter Sahana from her ambitions of competing in the Olympics. A few years after Pavana’s birth, Sahana was back to training and she realised her childhood ambition by qualifying for the London 2012 Olympics.

“That was the moment when Pavana said she wanted to be an athlete,” Nagaraj revealed. “Seeing her mother train so hard and qualify for the Olympics acted as an inspiration for her. From there on, her goal was to become an athlete and win laurels for the country. So this gold in Dubai is a major boost to her confidence and I hope it’s just the start.”

Sahana, who is alongside Pavana as her coach in the desert city, was lost for words when DH reached out to her. “When your entire life is athletics and then seeing your daughter accomplish a feat like winning gold at the Asian meet it is really satisfying. It’s even more gratifying since I was one of the reasons why she took up the sport.”

Training at the world-class Reliance Academy in Mumbai under head coach James Hillier, Pavana’s current main focus is perfecting heptathlon. In fact, she’s competing in that event too at Dubai. According to her parents, the seven events will help her develop into a more accomplished athlete in the years to come. “We have given full freedom to Pavana on what she wants to become. Since she’s got both our genes, she’s good in sprints and jumps. She chose heptathlon because she wanted to try her hand at everything but likes the jumps, especially long jump. Her performances were as good as a genuine jumper, so she took extra interest in it. The gold is a proof of that,” said Sahana.

“However, she wants to try her hand in the other six events too and then figure out what she wants to pursue strongly. The main goal is qualifying for the Los Angeles 2028 Olympics. We are working strongly towards that goal.” 

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Published 26 April 2024, 16:19 IST

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