The Khelo India Youth Games, which concluded in Pune last week offered a glimpse into the potential of some of India’s brightest young athletes – be it a shooter from Telangana who has a hearing disability or a young archer who is looking to make it by overcoming several obstacles. Some of the established stars, meanwhile, proved their mettle once again by dishing out world-class performances. Here are some of the athletes who stood out:
The Fresh faces
Dhanush Srikant: Shooter/ Telangana
The 16-year-old shooter, who has a hearing disability, shot a world-class score of 629.7 in the qualification round and followed it up with an impressive 248.9 in the final to win gold medal. In the process, he defeated two-time junior World Cup bronze medalist Arjun Babuta. The most remarkable aspect of Srikant’s performance is that he took up shooting just two years ago, and was competing in an under-21 category.
Sakshi Rajendra Shitole: Archery/Maharashtra
She won the last gold medal of the Games, helping hosts Maharashtra top the overall medals tally. Sakshi, whose father is a farmer, ensured lack of resources did not stunt her growth. She trained under coach Ranjit Chamle in Pune’s Archers Academy to emerge as one of the country’s best archers. In the final of the Khelo India Games, she beat West Bengal’s Suparna Singh 6-0 and has set her sights on qualifying for the 2020 Olympics.
Bavleen Kaur: Gymnast, J&K
The 16-year-old gymnast won a medal in each of the 5 events she participated in. She finished with three gold and two silver medals. She returned with respectable scores of 12.35,11.25, 13.30 and 11.40 in the ball, ribbon, clubs, and hoop events respectively while her gold medal in the all-round category came with a score of 43.40, where she left behind Maharashtra’s Shreya Bhangale and Krisha Chheda. She is now aiming to participate in the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Srihari Nataraj: Swimmer, Karnataka
The 18-year-old swimmer recorded a clean sweep, winning seven gold medals. He bettered his own record of winning six golds at the Khelo India Games last year. Having already represented India at the Youth Olympics and the Asian Games in 2018, his next target is the World Championship
Jeremy Lalrinnunga: Weightlifting, Mizoram
Touted as the next big thing, h created 14 national records in the Youth Boys and Junior Men’s categories at the Games – 6 in in snatch, 4 in clean and jerk and 4 overall – as he won two medals in the U-17 and U-21 categories. The Youth Olympics gold medalist competed in the 67kg category, which is higher than his previous weight class of 62kg. It was his first tournament in the new category, with Asian Weightlifting Championship in China being his main target this year.
Mehuli Ghosh: Shooter, West Bengal
She won a gold in the 10m air rifle event and followed it up by finishing on the top of the podium in the team event, where she paired up with 10-year-old Abhinav Shaw – the youngest medalist at the Games. Mehuli’s scores were world-class, recording a total of 62.4 in qualifying round and 252.1 in the final.