Overcoming every hurdle,Visakhapatnam athlete realises her Olympic dream

Despite facing challenges at every corner of her path, 24-yr-old Jyothi Yarraji from Visakhapatnam is set to become the first Indian woman to represent the nation in 100 metre hurdles at Paris Olympics 2024
Jyothi Yarraji
Jyothi Yarraji

VISAKHAPATNAM: For this athlete, hurdles have not only been a part of her sport but also a metaphor for the challenges she’s faced in life. Jyothi Yarraji, a 24-year-old athlete from Visakhapatnam, is one step away in life from achieving her dreams. On her journey to the 2024 Summer Olympics in France, Yarraji is set to become the first Indian woman to qualify for the 100-metre hurdles at the Paris Olympics this year. Despite narrowly missing the automatic qualification time by just one hundredth of a second in a Finland event, she secured her spot through her world ranking.

During the event, she tore her quadriceps muscle, putting her Olympic dream in jeopardy. But it was her sheer resilience and determination that propelled her to accomplish her dream. “For any athlete, competing in the Olympics is a dream, and I feel happy and blessed to be a part of it this year. I am looking forward to giving my very best,” she said in a conversation with TNIE.

Jyothi’s journey in athletics began after she finished Class X at Port High School. Born into a humble background, her father, Suryanarayana, works as a private security guard, while her mother, Kumari, is a domestic helper-financial constraints posed significant hurdles. “Coming from a marginalised background, it was indeed very tough for me to pursue a career in athletics. We still face financial challenges and live in a rented house,” she revealed candidly.

Until 2021, all her cash prizes were channelled towards accommodation and training costs. However, her journey took a turn when she secured sponsorship from the Reliance Foundation in Mumbai, which has since provided unwavering support. Despite this, Yarraji highlights the stark contrast in support for athletes in India compared to other nations. “Unlike in other States and countries, there is very little support, recognition, and awareness here. If I go to my village and mention that I am a 100-metre hurdler, they often ask if I run kilometres. In contrast, sports like cricket are celebrated far more.”

Motivated by her experiences, Jyothi emphasised the urgent need for better sports infrastructure and recognition: “As an athlete, when I return home to Visakhapatnam, I don’t even have access to a basic running track to recover after injuries.

If this is the condition for athletes, what about those who aspire to be like us? We need proper local infrastructure to encourage young people in our society and raise awareness about the importance of all sports, not just a few.”

Looking ahead, Jyothi remains driven by her family’s unwavering support and her own aspirations. “It is not just my hard work but also my parents’ efforts and blessings that have brought me here today. I aim to achieve financial independence and provide a better life for my hardworking parents,” she expressed.

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