THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Summer has not set in but the temperature is certainly high. Even the green canopies in the SAI-LNCPE campus here finds it tough to occlude the probing sun. Back home, in Rasulpur Kalan, a village located 20 kms away from Amritsar, the mercury is hovering around 20 degrees and it would have been an ideal time for young Khushbir Kaur to relax, sip lassi and listen to Punjabi or Hindi songs. Or like all devout Sikhs, visit a Gurudwara with her mother, who is also her role model.
However, Khushbir remains rooted to reality. Heralded as the most promising female walker in the country, Khushbir, who is training in the National camp here, knows she cannot go home for the next six months at least. Ahead lie the Asian Walking Championship in March, followed by the World Athletics Championship in August. “Sometimes it’s very tough to stay away for months. We all know the value of the time we are missing. But when I win medals for the country, I feel relieved. That’s when I feel my efforts have paid off,” says Khushbir, occasionally wiping off the sweat from her brows.
The 21-year-old is very attached to her mother. After 2010 she has mostly been in national camps. It was then she realised her love for her mother. “I lost my father when I was six and she raised us. She showed amazing tenacity and taught us to take life head-on. Even now, when I undergo training and my body hurts, her face comes to mind. Her sacrifices made us mentally stronger,” she says. Though unintentional, it was her mother who initiated Khushbir into sports. When Khushbir was in the seventh standard, her mother egged her on to start walking. “I was also interested as walking would help me lose flab. I was a bit chubby then,” Khushbir recollects.
Even now, the 20km Asian Games silver-medalist and the holder of the national record recollects the image of her mother riding a cycle and motivating her to fast-pace her strides. “She thought walking would help improve the family condition, which it did,” said Khushbir, getting emotional.
The first time Khushbir started race-walking, her relatives were offended. “It was the first time a girl in my family was participating in sports. My uncles and aunts got upset.” Was it the opposition that bolstered Khushbir into putting up a great show? “Being a Sikh, once we are under duress we will show our grittiness. When there was objection from the family, I showed the same,” she grinned.
Though she is in the Punjab team for the National Games, her participation has not been confirmed yet. The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) had earlier asked elite walkers to abstain from the Games, keeping in mind the upcoming Asian Championship. This confusion has failed to perturb the star walker, who became the first woman to win an Asian Games race-walking medal for the country. “No confusion, ‘Waheguru’ will show the way,” she signed off.