When the spirit is willing, the seemingly impossible too becomes possible.
Tribal athlete Nayana Gangarama Kokare has proved this adage true once again.
Hailing from the remote area of Mundgod in Karnataka and being a part of the tribal community of Siddis, this 19-year-old represented India at the Asian under-20 Athletics Championships in Yecheon, South Korea, in June and picked up a bronze for the country in the 4x100m relay.
Also, despite this being her first international event, she finished the fourth-fastest athlete in the 200m in the meet where there were athletes from over 45 countries.
So how did it all begin for Nayana, the current 200m U-20 national champion?
“I used to participate in the school sports when I was in the sixth and seventh grades and I absolutely loved running,” Nayana told The Telegraph. “I always had a strong desire to emerge first in the races and excel in my performance.
“One day, when there were selection trials in Mundgod organised by Bridges of Sports (a non-profit organisation), I got the opportunity to participate and got selected. The coaches there provided me with a deeper understanding of sports and fanned my passion for the game.”
Not only in India, Nayana has also trained in the UK and Qatar. The experiences there have been an eye-opener for the girl who had not seen much beyond her backward poverty-stricken community.
“Engaging with athletes there and observing their life routines and personal styles of training have been a tremendous learning opportunity for me. They have instilled in me the value of discipline,” Nayana continued.
“The coaches in the UK and Qatar have assisted me in acquiring new skills and fostering personal growth. They have been patient, dedicating a lot of time to explain new concepts and techniques to athletes like me. This exposure has broadened my horizon. It’s also been fun to try diverse cuisines and explore unfamiliar places and learn their customs and traditions.”
Much of all this has been possible because of the help extended by the Transworld Group, which has been supporting Bridges of Sports since 2020 to impact the lives of the tribal youths from Mundgod.
Their support comprises providing holistic training to the athletes, international exposure and building psychological strength.
Taking up sport seriously was an alien concept to Nayana’s parents who have four children to take care of. But now they provide the athlete with a lot of support.
“They now assist me to the best of their abilities. I am sure this community engagement will continue to benefit other sportspersons after me.”
Nayana, who is now based in Dharwad, Karnataka, and trains under Tenzin Zongpa and Kunga Tsering, is preparing for a national meet scheduled for October.
Her target? “My goal is to bring honours for my country. Then, to make my family proud and justify my sponsor’s faith in me,” she concluded.