Athlete Shanti Mukta Barla poses with her medals
One look at 47-year-old long-distance runner Shanti Mukta Barla, and you’d know why 40 is called the new 20.
The athlete who lives in Adityapur, Seraikela-Kharsawan, and works as a lecturer of bachelor of education (BEd) at Jamshedpur Women’s College, has been selected for the 18th Asia Masters Athletics Championship at Kitakami in Japan, to be held between September 19 and 23.
Part of the 35-member Indian squad (men and women), Shanti will compete in 5,000m run in the 45-50 age group.
The city of Kitakami is known for its cherry blossoms at its Tenshochi Park. But the only thing Shanti is interested in seeing right now is how she performs there.
“I will start training at the JRD Tata Sports Complex tracks. Endurance is the key. I am optimistic about my medal prospects at Kitakami,” the long-distance champion said.
This confidence perhaps springs from her recent performances. She won three silvers (5,000m, 300m hurdles and triple jump) at the Sri Lanka Masters Athletics 26th Open Championship in 2012. More recently, she claimed silver in 5,000m run and bronze in 300m hurdles at the 35th National Masters Meet held at Coimbatore this February-end.
Jharkhand Masters Athletics Association secretary Narayan Sahu told The Telegraph over phone from Ranchi that Shanti had the rare ability to compete and win at international events.
“She is experienced, fit, has the stamina and knows her job. I am confident about her prospects in Japan,” he added.
The real problem in these competitions is the money crunch. Shanti has to raise funds for her Japan trip because Masters Athletics Federation of India doesn’t pay for participation.
The national body gets no government support.
Most athletes, despite being selected, opt out. Asked, Shanti admitted the problem but said she would manage. “I will need about Rs 1 lakh. I have some money with me and my well-wishers will arrange the rest,” she said.
Shanti added she had faced a cash crunch before going to Taiwan for Asian Masters Track and Field Championship in 2012. Two college professors, Jugsalai school Kanya Madhya Vidyalaya and Jharkhand Vikas Morcha MLA Arvind Singh chipped in to help, she said. “Fortune favours the brave,” she smiled.
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