Avantika Narale, the daughter of a plumber, has shot into the limelight as a 15-year-old when she rewrote Dutee Chand’s 200m junior national record in 2018.
Now, she has set her eyes on the gold medal in the Khelo India Youth Games (KIYG) in Panchkula, Haryana. “I have been training very hard and am confident of winning one or two sprint gold in Haryana,” she said. The Pune girl will be representing defending champions Maharashtra at KIYG 2021.
Narale is not new to the Khelo India platform, though. She missed out on the 100m sprint in 2019 Pune, not even starting as she had somehow failed to hear the start gun. She, however, more than made up for the loss by clinching the 200m gold.
Narale’s path to the top has not been on a bed of roses. Her mother supported her plumber husband by working as a maid in neighbouring houses. Yet, they never let anything come to their daughter’s dream of becoming one of India’s biggest hopes. Her father now looks after her training schedule, taking her to the venue and back home every day.
“I am proud of my family. They support me and the rest at home in every possible way. I have started to reap some fruits, but have a long way to go,” Narale revealed.
In 2019, Narale won the Asian Youth Athletics Championship 100m gold medal (11.97 secs) in Hong Kong to show her mettle at the highest level. She also won the silver in the 200m, finishing in 24.20 secs, the same as her junior national record. She also won silver in the medley relay.
A first-year student at the Mamasaheb Mohol College in Kothrud, Pune, kabaddi was Narale’s, first love. But Sanjay Patankar, an athletics coach, spotted her talent in sprinting and has turned her into a speeding star.
“Khelo India Games has given many of us a new lease of life,” Narale said. She believes that multi-sport events like KIYG help young talent hone their skills at the right age. “Such initiatives help athletes who want to excel at a young age but don’t have the money. Every young athlete from the country now yearns to participate in the Khelo India Games to showcase their talent. Some athletes have even received a scholarship from the government, as part of the Khelo India programme. It is great that young athletes now get professional and monetary support after winning,” Narale said.
She was just 15 years old when she clocked 24.96s at the 2018 KIYG in Ranchi, bettering the Asian Games silver medallist Dutee Chand’s 2009 record of 24.98.