Race walker, Bhawna Jat, who had already secured a berth in the Tokyo Olympic Games, is not happy with the postponement of the big game. The 24-year-old stunned the world when she broke the national record of the 20 km race walk at the 7th National Race Walk Championships in Ranchi in February. She feels disappointed how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected athletes worldwide but is not ready to compromise on her fitness.

“I was disappointed at Olympics being postponed because I was in a very good shape and I was hoping to do well. The Asian Championships (to be held in March in Japan) was an ideal platform to test myself at the international level. That also got postponed due to COVID-19,” she told PTI.

Key Takeaways:

  • India’s female race walker Bhawna Jat has qualified for the Tokyo Olympics. 
  • She said the Asian Championships in March was an ideal platform to test my herself at the international level but that now stands postponed.
  • I play carrom for one hour and then dance to Hindi songs with other athletes: Bhawna Jat

Bhawna wakes up at 3 am to practice since she was 15-year old. A native of village Kabra in Rajasthan, currently she is based in the Sports Authority of India Centre, Bengaluru. From running on a dirt track near her mud house to now no outdoor training due to the lockdown, she is still maintaining her fitness by doing other exercises. “We do weight training, core strength training or skipping or work with the medicine ball. I walk inside the hall for 15 or 20 minutes,” the 24-year-old said.

She is the only woman race walker at the centre, which also has eight other male athletes of the same event. “Our coach (Alexander Artsybashev) has told us not to rest too much and be active all the time unless we are sleeping at night. So, I play carrom for one hour and then dance to Hindi songs with other athletes from other sports. That is how we keep moving,” she added.

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Uncertain about Olympics hopes

“It’s uncertain now when the competitions will restart, the season for this year is over in this situation. It is a relief that I have already qualified for the Olympics. I don’t know what will happen next year. I will have to start from scratch. I don’t know whether the Olympics will even be held next year,” Bhawna said expressing disappointment.

Bhawna had clocked a national record 1:29.54 (the Olympic qualification time of 1:31:00) to win the gold in the National Championships. “Since the time I took up this sport, I have been dreaming of an Olympic medal. That is my ultimate aim. But as of now I am not thinking about Olympics, I am thinking about when this pandemic will end,” she said.

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Strict rules at the SAI Centre

Bhawna started race walking in 2009, early in her teens, said the athletes have to follow the social distancing norms very strictly at the Centre.

“Nobody can go outside and nobody is coming in the centre from outside. While standing in queue for food at the mess, we have to be two metre apart. To get own stuff like shampoo or toothpaste, we have to tell the hostel people who bring them for us. Earlier, at least four trainees could sit at the mess table but now only two can sit there,” she revealed.

Talking about her parents’ in Rajasthan, Bhawna said, “I am concerned about them but I can’t do anything. I cannot go there unless the lockdown is lifted.”

“I talk to them on phone everyday. Our village is not affected but they will have to go out for farming. My parents will not tell me anything about small matters in the family. They will think that it will affect me,” she expressed.

Feature Image Credit: ANI

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