Ahmedabad: On a day when many big names failed to fetch a gold medal for Kerala at the 36th National Games here, it was a Maharashtra-born girl who added some yellow glitter to the state's medal tally.
The 25-year-old Radhika Prakash Awati, who hails from the Sugar bowl district of Sangli in western Maharashtra, has been living in Kerala since she turned 13. Born in a family of sugarcane farmers, she had completed her course at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) Centre in Thalassery long ago, but she refused to leave her 'second home' that made her an expert at the combat sport.
Daughter of Prakash Awati and Rekha, she fell in love with the curved blades after watching a fencing demonstration in her school. She, accompanied by her father, travelled to Thalassery and attended selection trials held by SAI Centre in Thalassery, one of the very few institutions in the country that has facilities for training in fencing. Although she got selected, initially she struggled to adjust to the new place and food. However, such adversities did not dissuade Radhika as she slowly acclimatised and started loving Kerala.
As the years passed, her fencing skills improved and she became a force to reckon with in national and international-level tournaments. She was part of the Indian mixed team which won gold at the Commonwealth Games. She also did well at the Asian Senior and World Senior championships.
On Saturday, Radhika put it across Manipur's Anita Devi (15-12) to secure gold in the foil event. She currently works as a clerk at the Directorate of Sports and Youth Affairs in Thiruvananthapuram.
The day saw Kerala winning two silver and bronze medals each as well to take the overall medal tally to 10. So far, the state has clinched four gold, three silver and bronze medals each and is currently at the eighth position in overall medal standings.