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Budhia Singh is Running the Wrong Race 

Budhia Singh speaks to The Quint about why he still dreams of representing India at the Olympics.

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Budhia Singh could run a marathon before he could count the number of kilometers he was covering. At the age of four, he ran 65 kilometers from Puri to Bhubaneswar in seven hours and two minutes. Budhia became a legend. And his coach Biranchi Das, the center of controversy.

Das was accused of exploiting the child for money and recognition and soon the state government stepped in and put Budhia in a sports hostel. Biranchi Das was shot dead shortly after in an unrelated incident. His protege faded from public memory.

Until Soumendra Padhi decided to make a film on the world’s youngest marathon runner.

The Biopic

“It felt really good to know someone was interested in me. It made me feel special,” says Budhia in a rapid mix of Hindi and Odiya over the phone. Soumendra also joined in the conversation with The Quint and says he was drawn to Budhia’s life story because “in it are two opposing forces and they are both right”.

Now 14, Budhia is no longer the long distance runner he once was. He can barely sprint 2 kilometers. He’s not even a good student and lags behind in most subjects.

“Anyone can beat me in 1 or 2 kilometer sprints. But after 5 kilometers, I’m unstoppable. After 5 kilometers, I don’t even feel like I’m running”, says Budhia. But nobody in his hostel is trained to coach a long distance runner.

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Budhia is now 14 and hoping to get noticed by a coach. (Photo Courtesy: Odisha Sun Times) 
Budhia is now 14 and hoping to get noticed by a coach. (Photo Courtesy: Odisha Sun Times) 

So, What Would it Take For an Organisation to Show Interest in Budhia?

Mustafa Ghouse of JSW Sports says “it would depend largely on what the technical team has to say. Yes, Budhia has shown incredible potential in the past. Crucial part would be to gauge what the coaches feel about him, biomechanics, his ability, talent and his desire to work hard to get what he wants.”

Success in track and field events have a lot to do with the athletes’ commitment.

OP Jaisha, the current national record holder in marathon running and India’s representative to the Rio 2016 is backed by JSW Sports.

Why then has Budhia Singh been overlooked in a country where a fair amount of importance is given to track and field events?

Budhia Singh’s 65 km marathon in 2006 was widely televised and got considerable attention from the international media. Why did he then fade from public memory?

“It’s tough to say why that happened,” Mustafa Ghouse tells The Quint, “but yes, he did disappear after making a big splash.”

Marathon running is not something you relate to with young athletes. Marathon runners come into their own in their 20s. You need your body to mature and you don’t hear of too many wonder kids breaking records. That’s how it is the world over.
Mustafa Ghouse, CEO, JSW Sports

Budhia just got lost in the crowd. But there’s no saying that he couldn’t emerge again. Wilder things have happened.

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(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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