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Thursday, July 07, 2022

The French Connection

City hurdler branches out from routine track training to take in a spot of French erudition

Written by Shivani Naik |
July 10, 2013 2:42:13 am

When Shriya Vidwans watched Marion Bartoli win the Wimbledon on the tele,her whooping un cri de joie was met with familiar glee,at her students hostel in Cergy-Pontoise near Paris where the Mumbai athlete is currently camped as part of a language study tour. French sport – Roland Garros,the piquant French tennis players,TdFs and Les Bleus sides in football and rugby – are all rub-offs of the 23-year-old Shriya’s long-standing interest in the French language. And the former junior champion in sprints from Thane,having completed her Level 3 from Alliance Française de Bombay,has taken an unlikely route for a practicing athlete,of learning a foreign tongue alongside sharpening her strides on the track.

“It’s wrong perception that just because you are in sport,you cannot pursue academics. It’s challenging but not impossible. I studied French in school and college and though I should pursue it further,” said the young runner,who couldn’t qualify for the Asian Athletics meet in Pune after shifting disciplines to 100m hurdles only recently,though she boasts of the state record in the event. While she easily made the cut for the cultural exchange study-programme organised by the Lions Club of France,starting from July 1,Shriya has carefully saddled both her cédilles and her sprints into her schedule for years,never missing the dust and toil of track training in evenings,neither skipping her early morning weekend classes in French. “I started with weekend batches because I wanted to balance both,” she says,voicing rare commitment for an Indian sportsperson to stick her nose into books.

“It’s very important that every athlete completes his / her graduation and is well-informed. Sport helped me in my academics and was in no way a hindrance to good grades. I too had to make many adjustments,but it’s all worth it. There’s this pressure from society when you reach Class 10 that you have to quit sport and it’s implied you should rush instead to join tuitions for 7-8 hours,but I continued my athletics through my boards years. Anyone who says it interferes with studies is only looking for excuses,” says the girl,who lists many team-mates of her’s who have taken on complicated academic courses like medicine and engineering even,alongside the sport.

After the first four days in Paris,Shriya will head to her base Cergy-Pontoise where her group is expected make presentations on India at the cultural institute. “Basically,we speak on India in French for over an hour. And also visit monuments and museums in the month-long trip,” says the enthusiastic linguist,who always enjoyed the sound of unfamiliar accents when she criss-crossed the country travelling for athletics meets. She often picked up the nuances,be it the lilting Gurbani that she came across at Patiala or the boisterous Punjabi at the camps as also the persuasive warble of her South Indian team-mates.

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Shriya first fell for French owing to her sweet-sounding teacher Mrs Joshi and though she went on to represent the country in relays at Asian Indoors a few seasons back,she was determined to not let go off a language taht had her captivated as a teenager. She tore a hamstring a year before the Commonwealth Youth Games (2008) in a devilishly depressing injury and had coped with the limping off from the field,and the ensuing rough times,by immersing herslef in the new language.

Presently,trying for find her footing – and strides – in the hurdles,Shriya is tackling another tricky phase where she stumbled on the first hurdled and suffered an accident. “I intend to continue athletics,but I’ll need to be patient for it’s taking time to get the breakthroughs,” she said,before her French sojourn. Shriya Vidwans though is currently brushing up on stringing French sentences quicker than her runs.

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