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Cash hurdle too high?

- Veteran athlete rues lack of sponsors for Taiwan tourney

Shanti Mukta Barla would love to be able to run all the way to Taiwan.

Jamshedpur-based Barla is a 46-year-old champion long-distance runner who won three silvers at a Sri Lanka meet this July but has no money to buy air tickets to Taiwan for another tourney in November.

The senior athlete needs around Rs 50,000 to take part in the Asian Masters Athletics Track and Field Championship scheduled in Taiwan from November 2 to 7. A BEd lecturer at Jamshedpur Women’s College, she has shelled out Rs 9,000 out of her own pocket for the entry form, but her persistent efforts to find a sponsor for her trip has so far come a cropper.

According to her, the Masters Athletics Federation of India (MAFI) is not sponsoring the national team’s participation in the Asian championship. “Participating athletes have to arrange their own trip. Besides me, veterans P.C. Deogam of Lohardaga, Narayan Sahu of Ranchi, Hitlal Mahto of Hazaribagh and Jaspal Kishori of Dhanbad are in a similar dilemma due to cash crunch,” she said.

Jharkhand Masters’ Athletics Association claimed that the cost incurred would be reimbursed once the team returned from Taiwan.

Barla grimaces. “Let me not make any comment on whether I will get reimbursed once I am back. I only know that to go to Taiwan, I have to arrange my own funds. It is difficult for me to arrange Rs 50,000 months after I spent over Rs 30,000 to participate at the Sri Lanka masters’ meet in July, where I won silvers in 5,000m, 300m hurdles and triple jump. Why should I have to spend from my own pocket when I’m representing my country?” asked the mother of two who stays in Adityapur.

Barla clocked 31:31:2 seconds in the 5,000m run and took a minute and 35 seconds to get through the hurdles in Colombo. She fell short of the top place in the triple jump with a leap of 7.24m that got her the third silver.

In Taiwan, she planned to participate in the 5,000-metre run and 300m hurdles.

She knows that time is running out. “If things go according to plan, I am supposed to catch the flight to Taiwan from Calcutta on October 31. As things stand, I have money for neither tickets nor hotel accommodation,” Barla said.

She had approached the district administration and Tata Steel sports department for assistance, but didn’t get the green light from either.

Financial uncertainty aside, a supremely fit Barla is carrying on with her daily grind at the JRD Tata Sports Complex.

“A sportsperson lives on hope and discipline,” she smiled. “I still haven’t lost hope that a sponsor who respects women may turn up. And I have to keep up my practice, come what may,” she said.

Can unique fund-raisers, on Facebook for instance, help Barla?

Tell ttkhand@abpmail.com