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Gritty race to golden finish

- Kolhan varsity meet spawns promising tribal athlete duo

Pedals and maar-bhaat, marinated with hard work and a will to win, can be a recipe for success.

Two tribal students, who left poverty behind to clinch gold glory at Kolhan University inter-college athletics meet that ended at JRD Tata Sports Complex on Thursday, have shown how.

First-year arts students Kairi Purty (20) and Ray Baskey (19) bagged medals at their maiden exposure to competitive athletics. Their performance has once again underscored that Jharkhand, home to humble prodigies like archer Deepika Kumari and hockey goalie Bigan Soy, would never lose its sporting spirit.

Purty, a student of Karim City College, struck gold in 100m sprint, long and high jumps and bagged a bronze in 4x100m women’s relay. On the other hand, Baskey, pursuing his studies at Lal Bahadur Shastri Memorial College, claimed gold medals in men’s 5,000m and 1,500m races, and clinched a silver in 4x400m men’s relay.

Both Purty and Baskey wage a daily battle against financial odds to stay true to their sport. Parsudih-based Purty’s five-member family lives off her brother’s earnings as a paramilitary jawan. Baskey, a resident of Balidih village in Potka, also hails from a five-member family, dependent on his father’s income as a contractual labourer.

The duo pedal for over 10km daily to reach their practise grounds. While Purty goes all the way from Parsudih to Telco Stadium to hone her skills, Baskey pedals from his Potka home to JRD Tata Sports Complex to train under former international athlete Saroj Lakra.

“Reaching the training ground is tiring, but I have not learnt to give up. I am excited to have performed well at the inter-college meet. These are my first medals and I hope to clinch more,” she beamed after her brilliant performance.

She had started practising nearly three years ago. “I pedal all that way because I wish to attain perfection in my sport,” Purty, who lost her father at a tender age, added.

Baskey attributed his victory to patience and perseverance. “Honestly, I sometimes feel I should not have taken to long-distance running as I cannot afford the diet needed to stay fit for the sport. I cannot afford energy drinks, vitamins and fibre-rich food. So, I drink half-a-litre of milk daily and eat maar-bhaat (starched rice). That keeps me going,” he said.

After pedalling 10km to the JRD facility for practice, Baskey covers an equal distance to reach his college. “It’s a tough routine. But I have to stick to my practice schedule. It is hard work that paid off at the meet,” he added.

Baskey’s mentor Lakra said her ward was a talented athlete and she would leave no stone unturned to help him overcome his shortcomings. “Baskey’s talent is still raw, but he has the stamina that is needed to make it big. He will improve in days to come,” she said.

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