Jat walk: Olympian from 2,500 village shuts down skeptics, urges young people to hit the ground

Bhawna Jat was the only Olympian to compete at the National Open Track and Field Championships in Warangal, but the walker withdrew from the 20km event after 5km, citing illness. She sat on the sidelines on Thursday, cheering on her railroad partner Ravina, who finished second.

“I haven’t felt well the past few days and haven’t had time to train properly,” said Bhawna, who shuttled across the country for congratulatory ceremonies after landing. Tokyo. The 25-year-old finished the 20km race at the Olympics in 32nd place with a time of 1:37:38.

For Bhawna, who comes from a farming family in the village of Kabra in the Rajsamand district of Rajasthan, participating in the Tokyo Olympics has been life changing. “The Olympics were important to me. Coming from a village and stepping onto the international stage first with the Olympics was like a dream come true. ”

From breakfast with the Prime Minister at the Red Fort to afternoon tea with the President at Rashtrapati Bhavan to being the guest of honor across the country, she slowly adjusts to the new fame. “Now people have started to recognize me. When I am on flights, people are curious if I am Bhawna, the athlete. It’s nice. I feel proud when this happens because of where I’m from, ”she said.

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This is all the more a justification for the Jat family. They were initially criticized by other villagers when Bhawna continued to run. “When I competed at the district and state level, a lot of people would say to my father:”Ladki ko bahar mat bhejo [don’t send the girl out]. he [athletics] will not be worth anything. But my dad didn’t want to listen, ”she said.

Bhawna fell into running during a district level competition in 2008. She competed in the event because there were no slots available in other events. She knew little about the sport but decided to stick with it. His family played a central role in his development. His brother, Prakash Chandra Jat, started out as a makeshift trainer.

“My brother dropped out of school because there was not enough money at home. He did private work to help me play sports. My uncle was helping me too. We didn’t have a phone, but he did. We used to search on YouTube, “how to run” to learn the technique, ”she said.

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Bhawna credits her trainer Gurmukh Saig, with whom she has been training since 2018, to Olympic qualification. She booked her place in Tokyo at the National Championships (Ranchi) in 2020 with a national record – which was then broken by Priyanka Goswami earlier this year.

“The villagers back home were very happy. They organized a big reception to welcome me after my qualification. Almost everyone from the village was there. My parents were very happy. They didn’t know what the Olympics were. When the media came to my house, they realized the magnitude of the competition. They said: ‘You should have told us earlier what the Olympics were’ (laughs).

Become the face of Kabra, which has just over 2,500 inhabitants, Bhawna is helping to change perceptions and inspire the young people at home. “Back in my village, no one was running. Wearing shorts was a bit awkward for me and for them too, but now of course things have changed. Now the children in my village go to the ground, and even run. They say they want to play in the Olympics.

The Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games next year are high on his agenda and Bhawna wants to get back into great shape. “I have to admit I couldn’t do my best [at the Olympics], but I gave it my all. I have gained invaluable experience from the Olympics and feel that I can give my best in the events to come, ”she said.

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