Shanti Mukta Barla
She can run like a dream but cash crunch is her nightmare.
Shanti Mukta Barla, the 47-year-old medal-winning long-distance runner from Adityapur, doesn’t have enough money to buy air tickets for the upcoming 18th Asia Masters Athletics Championship in Kitakami, Japan.
The tribal athlete, also a BEd lecturer at Jamshedpur Women’s College, will represent India at the championship between September 19 and 23. She is slated to participate in the 5,000-metres run (45-50 years category).
Right now, she has a little over Rs 25,000 at her disposal. But, she needs to cobble together at least Rs 65,000 for her to and fro flight to Japan.
“I received calls from Jharkhand Masters Athletics Association (JMAA) secretary Narayan Sahu yesterday (Wednesday) evening and this morning (Thursday) about the flight tickets. I’m a little worried now,” she said.
The Telegraph had reported on her upcoming Japan tourney “40-plus & ready to fly (June 24)”.
“I’d told you that I’d need about a lakh for the trip. Masters Athletics Federation of India doesn’t sponsor us,” she told The Telegraph on Thursday.
Pulling out is always an option but the runner said she would approach college lecturers and the sports unit of Kolhan University for help. “The pressure of buying flight tickets is immediate. I have to deposit money to the state association,” she said.
Shanti won three silvers (5,000 metres, 300-metre hurdles and triple jump) at the Sri Lanka Masters Athletics 26th Open Championship in 2012. She claimed silver in 5,000 metres and bronze in 300-metre hurdles at the 35th National Masters Meet held at Coimbatore this February-end.
But finding sponsors is still her biggest worry. “In India, it is not enough to focus on sport. There’s constant financial pressure,” she added wryly.
But, she recalled that in a similar situation earlier, her well wishers, including two college professors, a teacher at Jugsalai’s Kanya Madhya Vidyalaya, and Jharkhand Vikas Morcha MLA Arvind Singh had chipped in with help.
“I have been lucky before, I hope to be lucky now and have spoken to my well-wishers,” she said.
Contacted, Jharkhand Masters Athletics Association secretary Sahu said over phone from Ranchi that they needed money to book air tickets in advance for Shanti. “Master athletes have to arrange money on their own. There’s no government aid,” he added.