As she soared over the bar placed at 4m,Khyati S Vakharia became only the second Indian woman pole-vaulter to cross the mark. Vakharia,24,was an artistic gymnast for 15 years before trying her luck at heptathlon and then finding pole-vault to her liking her skills as a gymnast making her a natural when it came to turning in the air.
Even as her athletics career gained a sense of permanency,Vakharia didnt lose focus on her dream of becoming a doctor. She completed her MBBS in 2012,and over the next year did an internship that involved 36 to 52 hour shifts in the emergency ward of the Bangalore Medical College,while still managing to keep training for the pole vault.
I used to start a shift in the emergency ward at 9 am,finish at 4 pm the next day,and then head to the SAI Centre in Kengeri to train with my coach LS Upadhyay. I would do up to seven training sessions a week,including on Sundays when I used to be off from internship. An average pole-vaulter does about 10 to 11 sessions but because of my medical internship I had to restrict my training to an extent, Khyati says.
On Tuesday Khyatis training schedule over the past year proved to be good enough to give her the gold at 3.80m. She not only relegated national record holder VS Surekha to the silver but also went on to better Surekhas meet record by successfully clearing 3.86m. Not satisfied with rewriting the Federation Cup National athletics record books,Khyati aimed for the 4m barrier. She soared over 3.95m and then 4m before failing in her attempt to better Surekhas national record,which stands at 4.08m.
My exams for post-graduation entrance are in November and the course starts in August 2014 so I can now fully focus on athletics for a few months. I am confident that I can break the national record and go on to win a medal at next years Asian Games, says Khyati,who wants to become a surgeon.
Khyati believes her Asian Games aspirations are not a pipe dream because at the Guangzhou Games in 2010,the gold went to Chinas Li Caixia who cleared 4.30m. Going by the performances in Guangzhou I think a medal should be within my range at the next Asian Games, Khyati says.
But once again,Khyati will have to dabble between her books and her sport. The Asian Games in Incheon begin in the third week of September and if Khyati gets a post-graduation seat she will have a lot on her plate.
My brother Mihir is an engineer and I always wanted to become a doctor. My parents encouraged us to follow our passions. But they were not the kind of parents who wanted their children to become only doctors or engineers and this helped me. Luckily for me I have been successful in both fields, Khyati says.
Incidentally,it was Khyatis mother Varsha who enrolled her for gymnastics at the age of five. She dedicated her teenage years to this sport before realising she wasnt getting anywhere.
At the 2011 National Games in Ranchi I won gold (3.65m) and now I have improved by 35 centimetres, she says. So I know that pole vault is where my future lies. I will give the sport another four to five years.