Handling goats and cattle had been Kisan Tadvi’s responsibility long before he turned 10. Tending to the domesticated animals on his parents’ farm, he explains, wasn’t an easy job. Often, he would find himself chasing an errant goat or cow, who would have wandered beyond the boundaries he’d set for his herd.
That is how he developed his fondness for running.
Chasing animals soon gave way to racing with friends. Now, the 16-year-old from Akkalkuva, a village in Nandurbar district near the trijunction of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, has won a silver medal in the 3000 meter flat race at the Asian Youth Championships in Bangkok in May.
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The teenager had qualified for the Asian Championships by winning his event at the nationals in Goa a month ago, clocking 8 minutes 31 seconds. Before leaving for Thailand, he made it clear he wanted to excel at the event. Consequently, he recorded his personal best of 8:27.87, just one second behind Bahrain’s winner Abdo Abdi Ibrahim (8:26.39) and six seconds clear of third.
“The weather was quite hot and it’s difficult to race in those conditions,” says Tadvi’s coach, Vijendra Singh. “But despite that, he did exceedingly well.”
Yet, there was disappointment as the second-place finish, on his first trip abroad, wasn’t enough to secure a berth for August’s Youth Olympics in Nanjing. With the Asian quota set at one by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the Youth Olympics could only accommodate the winner.
“Our tactics went wrong and inexperience also pulled him down,” says Singh.
With a Chinese athlete was ranked first and a Japanese runner second, Tadvi was to keep up with them for the first five laps and then move forward during the last 1000 metres.
“He did that but the Bahrain boy (who was ranked lower) had overtaken them before five laps (were up) and was about 40 metres ahead before Kisan was close enough to hear me shouting to push harder. He should have seen that earlier. In the end he was short by five metres — just one second,” he says.
Tadvi, though, is happy with his performance. Preparation for the trip to Thailand had begun in Goa as soon as he crossed the line before everyone else. Tadvi claims to have already been looking beyond the gold medal he would receive for that feat. “I’ve won gold medals before, but this one was special because I knew I was going to go abroad for a tournament. I was already looking forward to the flight,” he says, ecstatically.
JOURNEYS ALL ALONG
The teenager’s career in athletics itself has been a story of journeys. He recalls his six-year-long passage from the 100m to the 3000m.
“There was no long distance running in the U-10 category, so I had to participate in the sprint,” says Tadvi, recalling 2008, when he started competing.
With time, he moved to the 600m. The medals kept coming as the distance kept increasing, before he zeroed in at the three kilometre mark.
Singh played a guiding role as his coach at the Bhonsala Military School in Nashik. “His body type suited the longer event, but his greatest weapon is that he has a great deal of natural speed. He’s also a very intelligent boy and learns from his mistakes, and he has strong determination,” says Singh.
Tadvi’s infrequent visits home — he has not been there in over four years — are due to his resolve to keep improving. He moved to the Nashik-based establishment after winning a race organised for “Adivasi” children in 2008. Since then, he has only visited his family once — in 2010. He isn’t even sure they knew he was abroad.
“There is never any signal in our village, so there was no point trying to call there. I informed one of my elder brothers who was passing by Nashik before we left. I’m guessing he will tell them when he gets back home,” says Tadvi, the youngest child among nine.
Singh has no doubts and growing confidence in his ward’s performances, especially after the success in Thailand. “I have no doubt he will become an Olympian, 100 per cent,” he says.
Before leaving for the Thai capital, Tadvi had mentioned that upon returning, there was another journey he waas looking forward to — one that was long overdue. “I think it’s about time I take a trip home! Even if it’s a short one,” he had said. Yet his coach Singh has other plans for the teenager.
“The work has just begun. There are many more tournaments he has to target, and the silver medal has just raised the expectation on him to qualify and compete in them all,” he concludes.