In 2010, when athletics coach Parveen Kumar saw youngster Divyanka Chaudhary competing in a 3,000-m event at a local athletics competition in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh, the Haryana coach approached Chaudhary’s parents urging them to send the youngster to train under him. Owners of a small piece of land at their village, Divyanka’s parents agreed, letting her accompany Kumar to Yamunanagar in Haryana to train.
On Sunday, as the 22-year-old DAV College, Chandigarh, student claimed the third place in the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Dhaka Marathon at Dhaka in Bangladesh, it was the youngster’s first podium finish in an international marathon abroad.
Chaudhary clocked a timing of three hours, seven minutes and 41 seconds, behind 2019 SAFF Games silver medallist Pushpa Bhandari of Nepal and fellow Indian 2019 SAAF Games bronze medallist Jyoti Gawate in the SAAF elite group, and the 22-year-old was quick to share the feat with coach and mentor Kumar.
“It has been a long journey for me after Praveen sir spotted me and took me to train as her daughter and trainee. At my village, I just loved to run and knew very less about the professional running. To decide and shift with Praveen sir and his family, leaving my family, was a tough decision but I owe it all to Praveen sir. To be on the podium for the first time in an international marathon is the biggest reward for Praveen sir and my whole family. The conditions here at Dhaka were a bit warm as compared to North India and the hilly terrain of the route posed as challenge. Even though my timing was not one of my best, I am glad to stand on the podium of an international event,” shared Chaudhary, who is a student of MA Sociology-I at DAV College, Sector 10.
While Kumar trained a young Chaudhary, focusing on her endurance and making her run multiple laps of the stadium near his home in Yamunanagar, she claimed her first national medal in the form of a bronze medal in the U-16 3,000-m event in the North Zone Athletics Championship in Aligarh in 2012.
In 2016, the athlete helped Haryana claim a team bronze medal in the U-20 All India Cross Country Championships in Goa in 2016. In 2018, Chaudhary would help Punjab team claim a bronze medal in the 10-km cross country event in the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) Senior National Cross Country Championships at Mathura, before winning the bronze medal for Panjab University in the 21-km half marathon event in the All India Inter-University Athletics Championships at Moodbidri, Karnataka.
In 2019, the youngster competed in the Gurgaon Marathon where she emerged as the winner in the women’s category, before she claimed the third spot in the elite runners category in Hyderabad marathon.
Prior to the lockdown last year, Chaudhary finished 18th in Mumbai Marathon followed by a second spot in the Gurugaon Marathon. “While I competed in cross country and other long distance races, my target always was the marathons. The top spot in 2019 Gurgaon Marathon and the third spot in the elite category in Hyderabad gave me the confidence of doing well in the Elite field. Prior to the lockdown, I was in good rhythm and when I was selected in the AFI team for Dhaka Marathon, I wanted to utilise this opportunity. The last one year has also made me train with the likes of two-time Olympian and former Asian Games champion 3,000-m runner Sudha Singh and Jyoti Gawate, and I often seek tips from Sudha didi,” said Chaudhary.
In 2019, Chaudhary clocked a timing of three hours and one minute at Gurugaon Marathon while at Hyderabad Marathon, she timed three hours and five minutes and nine seconds.
In 2020, Chaudhary clocked three hours and 24 minutes and 48 seconds at Mumbai, before returning with a time of three hours and six minutes at Gurgaon.
Kumar, who is a senior athletics coach in Haryana Sports department, believes that Chaudhary is ready for the international competitions.
“Her biggest strength has been her willpower and adaption to long distance running. She missed out on the Indian team for 2019 SAAF Games but our next target will be to be in the Indian team for the Asian Marathon Championships to be held in Thailand in July this year. We are also thankful to AFI Secretary Ravinder Chaudhary for supporting her and DAV College to financially support her and I am sure she will win more laurels for the country,” shared Kumar.
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