India may have performed dismally at the Rio Olympics so far, but there is a lot more to sports than just winning medals.
Several Indian athletes at Rio have had to fight through a lot of hardships before earning their berth at the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Sure, India should have won a medal by now, but qualifying for the Olympics and performing on the big stage can also be a success story.
And one such story to admire is one of 3000m steeplechase runner, Lalita Babar.
Lalita Babar’s finish at the 10th spot in the finals of her event at Rio maybe seen as another failure for India, but on the flip side, it’s actually one of the most inspiring sports stories ever.
Lalita – Born to Run
Lalita, way before she became a professional runner, used to run for several other reasons. The Maharshtrian girl ran four kilometres to and back from school, fetched water for the 17 people living in her house from faraway wells and ran in the fields while working on her family’s farm. She used to keep running barefoot the entire day to somehow make ends meet.
Interestingly, even after running so much, Lalita used to find time to play kho-kho in school, which involved more running.
Lalita decided to become a professional runner after finding out that a suitable career in running could improve the financial situation of her family.
With the support of her family, she started running half marathons and full marathons and started earning money for her family. Lalita’s first big earning was Rs 10,000, which she received after winning a 10km road race as a 15-year-old in 2004.
After participating in many national-level tournaments, Lalita took part in the 3000m event at the 2009 Asian Indoor Games in Hanoi, where she bagged the eight place.
In the 2010 Asian Games, she worked with Belarusian coach Nikolai Snesarev, who introduced Lalita to a rather interesting event – the steeplechase.
However, Snesarev left in 2010 and Lalita got back to marathon running. But in 2014, the Belarusian coach returned wanting to train Laita for marathons. However, the Maharashtrian girl was very keen on participating in the steeplechase event.
Barely after eight months of vigorous training, Lalita won the bronze medal in the event at the Incheon Asian Games and broke the national record with a timing of 9:35:37.
Then, she won the gold medal at the 2015 Asian Championships with another national record timing and booked her place in the Rio Olympics.
After breaking her own national record for a few more times, she set another national record during the heats of the 3000m steeplechase event at Rio with a timing of 9:19.76.
Lalita Babar has come a long way from the four-kilometre runs, but the toughest part of her life has just begun. She has a lot more distance to cover.