For little known Haryana athlete Kiran Pahal, who won the women’s 400m gold in the National Championships here, the triumph was an emotional moment as she remembered her late father who backed her sporting dreams to the hilt despite social opprobrium in a male dominated society.
Hailing from Ganaur village in Sonepat district of Haryana, the 21-year-old Kiran also recollected the struggles she had to undergo as her family was in abject poverty.
Her father Om Prakash, who died last month after a prolonged illness (lung problem), was a munshi at a Tehsil court in Sonepat district. Her mother Maya Devi is a home maker.
“My father was the only earning member. I am the youngest of three siblings. It was tough in our family, we struggled a lot due to financial issues,” Kiran told PTI after winning the gold on Saturday.
Best of Express Premium
“My father backed me to continue athletics despite our village people and neighbours telling him that girls should not play sports. They will tell him that if I continue playing there would be no one to marry me.
“He was the one behind my taking up to athletics, but he is no more. We did not have money to take him to a good hospital for treatment. I am regretting it and I am missing him at this moment,” Kiran said, breaking down into tears.
Kiran, who has run the second fastest time of the season of 51.84s at the state championships last month, took the women’s gold with a time of 52.47 while another up and coming Rupal Choudhary of Uttar Pradesh won the silver in 52.72. R Vithya Ramraj of Tamil Nadu took the bronze in 53.78s.
Kiran now works in the Indian Railways but her financial struggles have not abated yet.
“I earn Rs 25,000 per month but I have to send almost all the amount to my mother to run the family.
“I did not have money to buy running shoes and kits when I started athletics at class 10. Currently, I am being helped by my coach Ashish.
“Many a times, I thought of quitting due to so much of financial difficulties. But I am not going to quit, I want to achieve something big for my father. He is the reason for my my achievement and he is my inspiration.” Kiran was in the national camp in 2019 and 2021 and she recollected one instance when she did not have money for entry fee for a national event at NIS Patiala.
“I was at NIS and I did not have money to pay the entry fee for Federation Cup. I called up my mother and she told me ‘don’t worry’ and she will arrange for it.” Kiran was dropped from the camp before the Olympics as her performance slipped. “But, I am ready to join camp now, if I am called,” she added.