Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

If the Odisha athletics squad left with their heads high after the completion of the three-day track and field event of the Khelo India Youth Games, they owe a lot to promising athlete Sabita Toppo. Her gold medals came in 100m hurdles and long jump. 

The eastern Indian state’s haul of four gold medals, one silver and two bronze were a substantial improvement on their returns from the track last year when they ended with one silver and two bronze medals.

 ‘’The improvement in our performance has been noticeable and for this, I must thank the High Performance Centre in Bhubaneswar,’’ said Sabita, who hails from Sundargarh. 

The spunky 19-year-old’s story is yet another one of character and resilience. Sabita hails from a poor family of a farmer and labourer and is the youngest of six siblings who went through the trauma of losing her mother due to Covid-19 during the initial surge of the pandemic.

 ‘’Sabita is a rare talent who has the potential to be a pentathlete in India as she is a competent hurdler and a natural long jumper. Her performance graph took a significant leap late last year when she shone with a double-medal show in the Asian Youth Championship in Kuwait – a silver in 100m hurdles (14.17 secs) and then a gold in the medley relay. She was actually one of our go-to athletes for medals in this edition of Khelo India, which would be the last one for her and she didn’t disappoint,’’ said coach Martin Owens.

Much to the self-effacing girl’s credit, Sabita had actually improved her hurdles timing on way to the gold at the Tantia Tope Stadium where she clocked 13.96 seconds. 

Asked how she is planning to take the next leap from the junior to the Asian level, Sabita was unfazed. 

‘’I am not new to challenges in life and quite headstrong. The double gold haul in the Khelo India Youth Games  has boosted my confidence and my next goal is to make the cut for the Asian Junior Championship a few months later,’’ the emerging athlete said.