An athlete’s second coming after a long break of 25 years

Malabika clinched gold and silver medals in the recently concluded National Masters Games at Goa, writes Tanmay Das
Malabika Mishra
Malabika Mishra

BHUBANESWAR: At an age when athletes turn to coaching or commentary, Malabika Mishra is raring to go - for a second inning.

The 44-year-old sprinter who returned to the track after two decades and a half, clinched silver and a gold in the 400m and 4 x 100m relay race respectively in the women’s 40-plus category of the recently concluded National Masters Games 2024 at Bamboli, Goa.

Malabika had won several medals in state and national meets in 100m and 200m events between 1992 and 1998. However, all her laurels came in the junior categories. In the sub-junior group, she won 32 whereas in the junior category, she landed 52 medals in both state and national games.

Glory in the senior category eluded her though. She participated in the 30th National Games at Imphal in 1999 but failed to land a medal in the 4 x 100m relay event. That was the last national event she took part in. After the games, she got a job with state government undertaking OMFED and married within two years.

That seemed like an end to a career with great prospects. Deep inside, she craved for a medal in the senior category but was way too much into her work and family life. Years later, came the Covid pandemic. But the global health crisis also presented her ample time and a fresh perspective. During the lockdown and shutdown, the desire to return to the track raged and she prepared herself mentally.

“It is never easy to make a comeback to the track and field events after crossing 40. Women athletes, in particular, develop physical complications and are prone to injuries too,” she explained.

To reach her dream, she only had the veterans’ category option since it allows 40-plus athletes to compete in the national meets. What greatly helped was she worked out religiously and was a regular at the gym for the last 10 years to keep fit. She trained and was ready.

It was her family which supported her at every step and never let her dreams die a slow death with age. “With the support of my in-laws and my husband as well as son’s encouragement, I decided to restart my athletic career after two decades,” she said.

When she had started out, she dreamt of winning a senior national medal for Odisha and an international one for the country. “Though I wasn’t able to achieve the goal, I will fulfill my dream of winning an international medal in my second innings,” she said.

The veteran athlete said the Sports and Youth Services department fully extended infrastructure support to her at Kalinga Stadium. “If Odisha, like Punjab and Haryana, extends financial benefits to senior players, it will augur well for the state in the long run,” she said.

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