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Meerut: Omvir Chaudhary, 46, hopes his daughter will one day end the family’s life of penury. “She always had fire in her belly, but for poor people like us, we need food too,” he said matter of factly as people lined up outside his modest house to congratulate him.
Omvir’s daughter Rupal Chaudhary, 19, won bronze in the 400m race and silver in 4X400m relay at the World U-20 Athletics Championships in Columbia, USA. She is the first Indian athlete to win two medals at the global event.
A resident of Shahpur Jainpur village, 25km from Meerut, Omvir is a marginal farmer who grows sugarcane. “Rupal loved running. While she was in a local school, she began bringing medals right from class VI. These were her main motivations. She idealises (badminton player) PV Sandhu,” Omvir added.
One day in mid-2017, Rupal asked her father if she could get formal training in sprint and expressed her desire to join Kailash Prakash Stadium, 34km from their house. Seven months later Rupal won her first silver in the U-14, 600m race category at junior nationals in Ranchi.
There was no looking back. Before her selection for World U-20 Athletics, Rupal had won nine medals in the national championships -five gold, three silver and one bronze.
“This is her first international event and also the first time I’m not accompanying her,” added Omvir, who presented his daughter her first ever Nike shoes worth Rs 10,800 for competing in Columbia. During the Covid lockdown, when the stadium was closed, Rupal used to run nearly 12km daily in her village to stay fit. And her father used to accompany her on his bicycle. “Our means were limited and she being a daughter, I had my apprehensions. But she was determined, so I relented,” said Omvir.
Mamata Chaudhary, Rupal’s mother, is ecstatic. “Coming from a conservative rural society, many were opposed to her wishes. But we stood firm and told her that the only way to stop people from saying things is to bring home the medals. She never disappointed us. We are proud of her,” she said.
While Rupal is pursuing BA first year in Meerut College, her father Omvir feels that after the Columbia feat, she must grab the first opportunity to get a job, if offered. “An athlete’s future is unpredictable. Job security is most important. She can always continue her studies and sports,” he added.