Daily supply of milk, upto four large glasses a day, from a gaushala run to provide for the nutritional needs of trainees at a sports gurukul and the sacrifice of a father, who converted farmland into a sports field to train his daughter, helped 15-year-old hammer thrower Harshita Sherawat win silver at the Asian Youth Championships underway in Hong Kong.
Harshita’s best of 61.93 metres on Friday morning was the third time the teenager has broken the national record in the hammer throw (3kg) in a span of one year. Just 12 months ago, at the first edition of the Khelo India Games, Harshita had first written her name in the record books with a throw of 58.53 metres. Her progression chart gives hope that she could have a bright future in the women’s hammer throw, an event which has not been India’s strength. Chinese Taipei’s Chi-Hsien Hung won gold (62.80m) and Jaiyi Ye of China took the bronze (59.90m) at the Tseung Kwan-o stadium.
Harshita knows she will have to keep the celebrations in check because in less than a week she has to appear for her Class X examinations. The day before she left for the Asian Youth Championships she had given another paper.
She will derive joy from being able to convert a national medal, gold at the youth championships in Raipur last month, to an international one, a graduation many promising Indian athletes fail at. The silver is as much a testament to the talent of the youngster as it is about the determination of a track and field tragic, her father Sunil, to make sure his daughter becomes an international medalist.
Sunil was a decathlete at the university level but a long-term hamstring injury put paid to his plans. He took up a day job as a contractor for an oil company but his mind was made on living his unfulfilled dreams through his elder daughter. She almost became of 400 metre runner. “We even cleared a video interview at the PT Usha School. This was when she was in Class 4. But then I thought she would be better in a ‘power discipline’. A friend of mine, Surinder Fauji, was running a sports gurukul in Daulatpur. So we trained here there as there was no ground in Dhansa where we stayed,” Sunil recalled on Friday.
The gurukul was formed by like-minded friends and funded by well-wishers but to ensure there was no short-coming in nutrition, a gaushala which housed nine milch cows was started. The milk sold provided additonal funds which were used to finance the training needs of the young athletes. “Most of the milk was consumed by Harshita and other trainess of the gurukul but if there was extra we sold it,” Sunil said.
Harshita’s progress hit a roadblock when a local politician cited rules and disallowed athletes from the gurukul to practice at a nearby government school. Sunil though was not deterred. He turned to a close friend and requested him to lease out farmland to start an academy. It is on these grassy fields of the Udan Sports Academy in Dhansa, which has a cement throwing circle, where Harshita trained before leaving for Hong Kong. “My father is my guiding force. He has turned every challenge into an opportunity. It is his passion that keeps me going,” Harshita said.
As Harshita went from strength to strength, Sunil sold off his business and turned his full attention to moulding his daugther’s career. His daugther is mehnati (hardworking) Sunil says, but there have been times when he has dangled a carrot to push her. He got her a 60 inch LED televsion when she won the gold at the 2014 school nationals. This time she has not asked for anything, but Sunil says he is ready to splurge.
“We mostly watch only videos of hammer throw events on television. We have not taken a cable connection yet. She does not waste time wathcing random serials. So even if people say I spoil her a little, when it comes to the sport she is dead serious,” Sunil said.
On the day his daugther won the coveted medal, Sunil hopes he will be able to convince the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) to hire a specialist foreign coach for the hammer throw. A few years go the AFI did hire a specialist but the project failed because of lack of talent and faulty techniques Indian thrower had already developed. Harshita’s silver could be a good reason for a rethink.
Four other medals
Apart from the silver won by Harshita, India won four other medals at the championships on Friday. Philip Maheswaran Thabitha grabbed the first gold for India by winning the boys’ 110m hurdles in 12.86 seconds. Vipin Kumar added the second yellow metal for India in the boys’ hammer throw with an effort of 69.63m. Deepak Yadav added a bronze in pole vault by clearing 4.70m while Ajay bagged a medal of the same colour in the boys’ 1500m race with a timing of three minutes and 57.25 seconds.