BHUBANESWAR: A few years back, Laluprasad Bhoi of Kalahandi district was not interested in sports and was even forced by his parents to play with his friends in the local school ground. Today, though, the 19-year-old lanky boy from remote Ashrampada village in Kalahandi is preparing to win a medal at the World Junior Athletics Championship in the long jump category.
Son of a daily wager Kartika Bhoi and Golapi Bhoi, a cook at the Government SSD Higher Secondary School in Ashrampada, Lalu is the first athlete from Odisha to have qualified for the World Junior Athletics Championship (U-20) which will be held in Columbia from August 2 to 7 this year.
Last year, he broke the U-20 record by jumping 7.04 mtr during the State Athletics Meet held at Kalinga Stadium. Last week, he broke his own record with a 7.58 mtr jump to bag the bronze medal at Indian Grand Prix 4 held in the city, which led to his qualification for the world championship. The qualification length for the world championship is 7.55 mtr.
The champion says it was his mother who initiated him into sports. “To be honest, I never considered sports as my cup of tea but it was my mother who always made sure that I participated in such events at my school. During the State School Meet in 2018 at Keonjhar, I bagged a gold medal for jumping 6.28 mtr,” said Lalu who was also a student at Government SSD Higher Secondary School where his mother cooks mid-day meals.
A year later, he took part in the athletic meet called by Kalahandi athletic association in the U-18 category. His performance in the long jump event ensured his selection in the district athletic meet. Lalu was doing it all on his own without a coach.
“It was during the Covid-19 pandemic two years back that I got a call from the Kalahandi athletic association to appear for the State selection trial for National Junior Athletics Championship-2020 which was to be held at New Delhi,” said Lalu who is now a student of KISS College under KIIT University.
Not keen on appearing for the trial, the boy expressed his unwillingness before his mother as he did not have a coach to professionally train him. “She threatened to throw me out of the house if I didn’t participate,” recalled Lalu with a smile.
He jumped 7.06 mtr in the trial and got a berth in the State team in 2021. However, at the National Junior Athletics Championship, he suffered an injury while landing during the long jump and finished at the top-6 spot.
“This injury and sixth position only determined me to pursue long jump professionally. After the national event, I got a call from former athlete and coach of KISS Trinath Nayak who told me that I can be a national-level long jumper if trained well,” said Lalu who joined KISS with the help of Nayak, his first coach.
After he jumped 7.04 mtr at the State Athletics Meet last year, the State government decided to bring him to the Odisha Reliance Foundation Athletics High Performance Centre (HPC) for better training. A month back, he joined the HPC.
Head coach of Odisha Reliance Foundation Athletics HPC Martin Owens said Lalu is like an unpolished diamond as far as sports in Odisha is concerned. “He joined our centre just a month before the Indian Grand Prix. We will groom him here at our centre with proper diet, physio and nutrition to become a top athlete of the country,” Martin added.