Updated: February 10, 2021 2:17:00 pm
Each time race walker Munita Prajapati finishes on the podium, the 19 -year-old knows she is not only inching closer to fulfilling her dreams of competing in the Olympics someday but is also a step closer to helping her family escape poverty. The wiry race walker from Uttar Pradesh’s Varanasi district hogged the limelight on the fourth day of the junior nationals in Guwahati, winning the (U-20) 10,000m race walk event and breaking the national mark in the progress.
Munita clocked 47:53.58 s to erase the Reshma Patel’s 48:25.90s record, which was achieved just last month at the Junior Federation Cup in Bhopal. The daughter of a construction labourer father and a homemaker mother has also earned the distinction of becoming the first woman walker to clock a sub-48 minute time in the 10,000m race walk in the U-20 category.
Munita had already booked a spot for the World Juniors to be held in Nairobi, Kenya in August by clocking just one second within the 50:30seconds standard at the race walking nationals in February last year. Munita, who hails from Sahwajpur Badhaini Khurd district, took up athletics at the insistence of her elder sister who saw it as a means to secure a government job through sports quota.
“My sister wasn’t an athlete but she said this was the only way I could get out of the village and do something. I knew I had to do something to ensure my family’s struggles get over. Both my parents have sacrificed a lot for me and it’s my dream to secure a better future for them,“ says Munita, who has three elder sisters and a younger brother.
Munita’s father Biraju used to work at construction sites in Mumbai till 2010. But he got severely electrocuted and had to be off work for the next three years. After recovery, he decided to stay back in the village and look for menial jobs. “They had to amputate a toe on one leg and a few fingers from the other. He couldn’t work for another three years. Things were looking very bleak then. My sister told me why don’t you try sports, you could eventually gent a stable job and help the family,” recalls Munita who was about 10 back then.
Munita was fortunate to have coach Nirbhay, an army man, who trained other youngsters in the village. Back then she did not even have a clue that race walking was a professional sport. “Coach said I could do well in walking and I believed him,” she says. In 2017 she gave trials at the Sports Authority of India centre in Bhopal and made the cut for hostel admission. Since then she has bagged top spots in age-group meets and even secured a Khelo India scholarship of Rs 10,000 per month.
Munita’s parents have always backed their daughter in their endeavours despite knowing little about their daughter’s sport. They have not even witnessed her compete at a national meet.
“When I left home the villagers warned my family against it. They said things like “the girl child should not stay away from home” and what not. But my mother told them “my daughter will make it big someday and that will happen only if she leaves home”
Munita knows she’s still far away from her dreams of making the cut for the biggest sporting event on the globe but for now, she wants to fulfil her parents’ little wishes.
“My mom keeps telling me that she wants to come to Bhopal and travel around with me. My parents have not even entered an airport, forget sitting on a flight. I have this desire to take them on a plane. But I have told them I will do this as soon as I get a job.”
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