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Thursday, August 11, 2022

Her father killed by Naxals, 19-year-old Supriti Kachhap strikes gold, breaks record at Khelo India

Naxals had killed the 19-year-old's father, a medical practitioner, while she was still a toddler in Gumla, leaving her mother to take care of the five children.

Written by Nitin Sharma | Panchkula |
Updated: June 11, 2022 5:21:55 pm
19-year-old Kachhap created a new Athletics Federation of India national youth record with a timing of nine minutes and 46.14 seconds. (Express Photo by Jaipal Singh)

SUPRITI KACHHAP was just an infant then, but her mother, Balmati Devi, remembers that foggy December night in 2003, when she and her five children waited for her husband, Ramsewak Oraon, to return to their home in Burhu village, in Gumla district of Jharkhand. Oraon, who was the village medical practitioner, had gone with four other villagers to a patient’s home in a nearby village. The following day, Oraon and the others were found dead, their bodies tied to a tree and riddled with bullets in a suspected Naxal attack.

On Thursday morning, as 19-year-old Supriti created a new Athletics Federation of India national youth record, with a timing of 9 minutes and 46.14 seconds, going past the earlier mark of 9 minutes and 50.54 seconds, to win the gold in the girls’ 3000m race at the Khelo India Youth Games in Panchkula, Balmati Devi could not control her tears.

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Speaking to The Indian Express from Gumla, Balmati said: “Supriti toh chal bhi nahin sakti thi jab iske pitaji ko Naxals ne maar diya tha. (Supriti could not even walk when her father was killed by the Naxals). I have struggled to support my children all these years. She loves running and always tells me that if her father was alive today, he would have been proud of her achievements. We know he has been watching over her… When she returns home, we will keep her medal at our home in Burhu village.”

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After her husband’s death, Balmati got a job as a Class IV employee at the Block Development Officer’s (BDO) office in Ghaghra block of Gumla, and the family shifted to the government quarters there.

The youngster idolises national 3000m steeplechase record holder Avinash Sable and wishes to make the country proud one day. (Express Photo by Jaipal Singh)

Supriti was first enrolled in the Nukrudippa Chainpur School, where she ran on the small mud track. Later, she was admitted to St Patrick’s School in Gumla on a scholarship. It was during an inter-school competition that she was spotted by coach Prabhat Ranjan Tiwari, who took her under his wings at the Jharkhand Sports Training Centre in Gumla in 2015.

“We often go to inter-school competitions to spot tribal talent as they are very good in terms of natural endurance. She would compete in the 400m and 800m earlier, but when we undertook her sprint and repetition tests for long-distance running, her heart rate would not shoot up. Initially, I made her run 1,500m before shifting her to 3,000m events as we wanted her body to adjust mentally as well physically to the long-distance events,” said Tiwari.

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In 2016, Supriti reached the final of the girls’ 1500m race at the Junior National Athletics Championship in Vijayawada, after which she graduated to 3,000m events at the state and national level. In 2018, she was selected for the SAI Middle and Long Distance Academy in Bhopal, where she trained under former national silver medallist Pratibha Toppo.

She won her first national medal in 2019, when she bagged the 2,000m silver at the national Cross Country Championships in Mathura. The same year, she won the 3,000m bronze medal in the National Junior Athletics Championship in Guntur, where she clocked 9 minutes and 53.85 seconds.

Last year, Supriti won the silver in 3,000m, with a timing of 10 minutes and 5 seconds, at the National Junior Athletics Championship in Guwahati, and the bronze in 3,000m and 5,000m events at the Junior Federation Cup in Bhopal.

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“Since we focus only on long-distance events, we were impressed by Supriti’s endurance levels. She lacked a bit of speed initially. So we had to work on sprints, muscle memory and increase her running mileage per week. From making her run close to 80 kms per week, we increased it to 110-120 kms per week. She needs to gain more weight according to her body, for targeting medals at the senior level, and can be a bright prospect for the 2026 Asian Games,” said Toppo.

Before the Khelo India Youth Games, Supriti competed in the women’s 5,000m race in the Federation Cup Senior Athletics Championships at Kozhikode, where she clocked 16 minutes and 33 seconds against a qualifying mark of 16.40 minutes for the U-20 World Athletics Championship to be held in Columbia in August this year.

Asked about her role model, Supriti named national 3000m steeplechase record holder Avinash Sable. “He too comes from a poor family and has been a role model for me. Whenever I need motivation, I watch his competition videos… Hopefully, I can win medals for India one day,” she said. “I don’t remember my father, but I would like to dedicate this medal to him,” she added.

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First published on: 09-06-2022 at 09:23:53 pm

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