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Ghatshila teenager’s leap of faith and glory

When strong legs and a stronger will come together, a leap to glory is a matter of time.

Meet Pushpalata Murmu, a 13-year-old athlete from Ghatshila in East Singhbhum, who won the long jump gold in the Under-14 girls’ category at the 12th National Inter-district Athletics Championship held in Haridwar from April 25 to 28.

The young girl, who leaped 4.86m to bag the yellow metal, has amazed many with her potential and has raised hopes of greater success in the future. Pushpalata also bagged the long jump gold (5.09m) in the 11th National Inter-district Athletics Championship at Ranchi in January.

A modest girl with a steely reserve, Pushpalata is a trainee with Tata Steel Training Centre and idolises Anju Bobby George and P.T. Usha. Visibly delighted with her gold winning feat, the 13-year-old said: “Daudna aur kudna bahut acchha lagta hain. Sir (coach) jo kehte hain karti hun (I like running and jumping. I obey my coach).”

Pushpalata, a Class IX student of Saraswati Vidya Mandir, hones her skills at JRD Tata Sports Complex, a 45km journey from her Ghatshila home, and at her school grounds in Ghatshila.

Saptah mein teen din aati hun. Kabhi pitaji to kabhi maa ke saath train ya bus se aati hun (I come to Jamshedpur for practice thrice a week. Either my father or my mother accompanies me,” she said.

Pushpalata’s mentor Bagicha Singh is confident about the teenager who loves to listen to music and perform tribal dances.

“Pushpalata is very talented. Besides excelling at long jump, she also doubles up as a sprinter. I am sure she would go on to represent the country in international competitions,” said the Arjuna awardee who has been training her for the past one year.

Singh is sure the teenager, in her formative years now, would sharpen her skills over time.

“Pushpalata is fast, hardworking and trains sincerely. Support and encouragement from parents are helping her,” he pointed out.

The highly experienced mentor did not rule out the possibility of shifting Pushpalata to sprint events. “She’s a classy sprinter who can shape up well with time. Though it’s too early to shift her to sprint, I have it on my mind,” Singh said.

Tata Steel sports department head Charles Borromeo, an Asian Games 800m gold medallist, agreed. “She has the capability to become a fine jumper. She’s shaping up well and her potential will help her excel at international events,” he added.

Pushpalata’s father Balai Chandra Murmu, a teacher at Utkramit Madhya Vidyalaya in Patamda, said he felt delighted with the coach’s feedback.

“My daughter wants to become an international athlete. My wife Salma and I are encouraging her to realise that dream. We leave the rest to destiny,” Murmu told The Telegraph over phone from Ghatshila.

What can the state do to power Pushpalata’s ambition?

Tell ttkhand@abpmail.com