From remote village to Youth Games podium: Ashakiran’s brave run

This journey started in the village of Nawaidh, approximately 100km from the state capital Ranchi.

Published: 13th August 2023 11:47 AM  |   Last Updated: 13th August 2023 11:47 AM   |  A+A-

Ashakiran Barla

Express News Service

CHENNAI: When the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world, like other countries, India went under a lockdown in March 2020. All the recreational activities were closed, including sports. At that time, Ashakiran Barla, the silver medalist at the 2023 Commonwealth Youth Games, was training at the Jharkhand State Sports Promotion Society. With the academy closing, she had to go home. At home, with all the lockdown restrictions, she could not continue her practice. Frustrated with this situation, her coach, Ashu Bhatia, decided to bring her to his home in Bokaro.

Ashakiran Barla (L) with sister & coach

Not knowing when she would get the opportunity to compete, Bhatia decided to keep the practice going, and there were no complaints from his pupil. “I stayed with Bhatia sir at his place in October 2022,” Barla told this daily. “We used to practice in the middle of the night, from 2 till 6 in the morning,” she added.

Bhatia believes he needed to support this talented athlete when she needed the most. “She lives in a remote village. When I called Ashakiran during the lockdown, she told me her family was not keeping well. I decided to bring her to my place and train as much as possible.” All hard work helped her win a gold medal in 800m at the 2022 Asian U18 Athletics Championships in Kuwait, her first international medal. And now, she has won the silver medal at the Commonwealth Youth Games in the same event in Trinidad and Tobago.

This journey started in the village of Nawaidh, approximately 100km from the state capital Ranchi. A place so remote, there was no electricity or road connectivity till a little while ago. There is still no proper source of water, and during summer, the villagers still have to cover long distances just for some water. In such dire conditions for her family, Sister Divya Jojo spotted Barla’s talent for running. “She saw me in the school events and picked up my talent for running. I used to play hockey, but she took me to competitions in Ranchi, and that’s how it all started. Later, when I got selected for the nationals for the first time, she gave me the first shoes,” a grateful Barla said.

In one of those national competitions, Bhatia saw her talent for the first time. “I remember when I saw her for the first time, she was just a kid with lots of potential. I thought, if this girl can get the correct training and other facilities, the sky’s the limit for her. And when I started working with her, I could see how eager she was to practice. Whatever training I used to give her, she would never say no to any of the training routines. That’s what makes her special,” Bhatia reminisced. After success at the youth level, Barla and her coach have their eyes set on the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics. “We were not thinking about the 2024 Olympics because she is just 17 now. By the time of the 2028 edition, she will be around 22, potentially at the peak of her powers for 800m. That is our realistic aim. I am confident she will make us proud,” Bhatia added.

The 17-year-old has overcome many adversities to reach where she is right now. And just like her idol, PT Usha, she might inspire many to take up athletics soon. 

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