Jakarta: P U Chitra earned a creditable third place in the women’s 1,500m race at the Asian Games here on Thursday.
Chitra was eager to prove a point at the continental spectacle after being overlooked for the World Championships in London last year. And she did her bit with a bronze medal behind the Bahraini duo of Kalkidan Befkadu (4:07.88 min) and Tigist Belay (4:09.12 min).
Chitra was disappointed with her timing of 4:12.56 min and said that the tactics of Bahrain's naturalised stars surprised her. “I could have clocked a better time. They set off at a fast pace and it left me a bit perplexed,” said Chitra.
Chitra had sealed her ticket to Indonesia with a splendid show at the 58th national inter-state championships in Guwahati in June, clocking 4:11 min.
However, Chitra can be proud of her medal-winning performance here. Working her way up to the top by dint of unflappable spirit and hard work, this little girl from the village of Mundur in Palakkad is currently one of India's top medal prospects in middle-distance running at the international level.
Every time situations pulled her back, she bounced right back. In fact, athletics was a doorway for her to escape the clutches of poverty and hunger.
Chitra was a star performer at school meets before she came up with consistent performances at national meets. The frail-looking 23-year-old went on to produce impressive results in the international arena as well, bringing cheer to her poverty-stricken family of daily-wage labourers.
The footage of her gold-winning performance in the 1,500-meter race at the 22nd Asian Athletics Championships Bhubaneswar was one of the widely circulated videos among Keralites last year.
The thorny issues she confronted off the track in 2017 were worse than a career-threatening injury she sustained in 2011.
Despite winning gold at the Asian Athletics Championships and earning a direct qualification in the process, she was dropped from the Indian team for the World Athletics Championships, citing technical reasons.
Her omission triggered outrage among netizens and entire Kerala stood behind her to get her justice. Chitra filed a petition in the Kerala High Court and obtained a favourable verdict, but she could not make it in the end since entry deadline was over and the International Association of Athletics Federation rejected a request from the Athletics Federation of India to provide an exception.
Despite the odds being stacked against her, never once did Chitra complain or give up, and for that very reason this bronze has the sparkle of gold!