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Asian Games: Nandini Agasara wades through sleepless nights and sacrifices for priceless bronze

Nandini won her first Asian Games medal in a strong field, battling poverty, and her Indian counterpart, Swapna Barman, the defending champion.

Asian Games: Nandini Agasara wades through sleepless nights and sacrifices for priceless bronze

Shourya Mehta

Updated: 2 Oct 2023 5:53 AM GMT

Nandini Agasara, a young 20-year-old athlete, the epitome of sacrifices, bounced back from the adversities life has thrown at her to claim a medal on her Asian Games debut in Hangzhou.

Nandini, a 100m hurdler, and national junior record holder in the long jump and heptathlon, won her first Asian Games medal in a strong field, leaving behind her Indian counterpart, Swapna Barman, the defending champion, at the fourth position.

While talking in the mixed zone after winning the medal of her life, her eyes were filled with happy tears. "My uncle was like my father only. I called him 'bade papa' as he took care of me since I was a kid. We lost him last year in December," said Nandini.

Rising young

By winning the bronze medal in the women's heptathlon, Nandini changed her fate at the very last moment to make a podium finish. She made sorrowful starts at the beginning of the event, but she bounced back and kept her hope of winning a medal alive with 800m, 200m, and the long jump events remaining.

It turned true, and the result swayed in her favor. The deciding session in the women's heptathlon started with the long jump event, where she grabbed the third position. Nandini scored a net total of 5712 points, while Barman, who narrowly missed a medal, scored 5708. Other than 800m, Nandini won the 200m race, which fetched her 936 points.

"I haven't slept since last night due to the thought of a medal in mind. I was sweating a lot but then calmed myself down. My coaches pushed me throughout," Nandini talked about the jitters before her final day of the event started.

Early life sacrifices

Nandini dedicated her medal to her late grandfather and uncle, her source of motivation.

"I lost my grandfather also and I was unable to visit him during his last rites," Nandini said.

Coming from a humble background, Nandini has always struggled.

"I have struggled a lot. My father works at a tea shop and my mother works as a house help. I used to help her earlier and I do that now whenever I get some time," said Nandini.

The athlete’s father, a tea seller, used to work double a day to make ends meet. Her mother worked as a maid, and she used to do laundry and help her mother on the weekends. She was diagnosed with typhoid in December 2021, and when she had not fully recovered, Nandini contacted the Covid-19 injection.

Nevertheless, Nandini's unflappably bright spirits were unaffected by the dreadful sting of such illnesses. She continued to trail even when she battled through these physical ailments. Making it worse, she would suffer a grade two hamstring rupture. It severely eroded her confidence. She acknowledged her parents’ esteemed support, but she couldn’t sleep the whole night before the last day of her event and waited to win the medal, and she magnificently delivered that performance.

Arrival of a star

From winning Khelo India to the Asian Games silver, Nandini has built a hefty track of her achievements. Her major win was a gold medal for Telangana in the U-17 long jump event in the Khelo India Youth Games 2020. Her personal best performance in the 100-metre hurdles, 13.34 seconds, demonstrated her exceptional speed and agility and raised the bar for her rivals. She participated at the World Athletics U20 Championships in Cali, where she showed off her skills in the 100m hurdles by finishing third with an amazing time of 13.34 seconds. Nandini Agasara's commitment to her sport has enabled her to compete in several events, including the Indian U23 Championships, National Interstate Senior Athletics Championships, and more.

Shift to heptathlon

The turn of events that led her to try her luck in the heptathlon event was simple. She used to study at Kendra Vidyalaya when she started practicing in Hyderabad. She displayed her grit in the pentathlon event by winning medals, and then she shifted to the heptathlon, but sadly she faced an injury. She subsequently shifted to the huddles, and when she observed her skills in the heptathlon event she wanted to show her powerful performance back in the event, after winning a competition in the heptathlon event just after making a comeback from the injury. She decided to try her luck out in the same event in the Asian Games and that plan quite nicely worked out for her.

Strong backing; a token of appreciation

She thanked the supporting staff and the coaches for continuously motivating her and psychologically supporting her at the last moment. She expressed her heartfelt gratitude to the Athletics Federation of India, the Indian government, and Gopichand Academy along with her true believers and supporters who have backed her in all the terms. Her coach wasn’t able to sleep for the last two months in anticipation and training her for the medal win.

Nandini only recently entered the world of sports. In April 2018, she started working out at Gachibowli Stadium. One of the assistant coaches, impressed by her talent, presented her to head coach Nagapuri Ramesh. As a result, Nandini's career trajectory in sports started to soar astronomically under Ramesh's knowledgeable direction. Coach Ramesh’s unbeatable efforts were time and again mentioned by Nandini in interviews.

She proved to the world how people with resilience can win the battle against hardships. Nandini's tale embodies buoyancy and vigor. It is just the start, ways are wide open for her to conquer the athletics field with her will and skills.

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