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Abha Khatua shifts from heptathlon to shot-put, hoping to overcome financial distress

Abha Khatua shifts from heptathlon to shot-put, hoping to overcome financial distress
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Published: 15 Jun 2019 6:05 AM GMT
Abha Khatua was deemed as one of India's most promising athletes even a couple of years ago. The heptathlon athlete earned medals in several national ranking tournaments, including the Open National meet in 2017. Abha, who took up heptathlon at the age of 12 years, has garnered nearly 25 medals in the event since sub-junior, junior and senior level national tournaments. There were speculations among country’s athletics fraternity that Abha would get into Indian team any time. However, all hopes seem crushed for 24-year-old owing to dire financial distress. Abha hails from Narayangarh in the Jangal Mahal vicinity of West Midnapore district in West Bengal. Abha’s father is a farmer who does not own a piece of land and struggles to make ends meet with his meagre income. Abha, who had to take up household responsibilities at a nascent age, used to help her father carry heavy rice sacks to the storehouse and assist him in the grinding process.
In a conversation with The Bridge, Abha says, “I had gathered natural physical strength from helping my father in farming.” Till 2017, every morning, she used to travel for three hours to Kolkata to train at the SAI centre because she was not provided with a hostel room; even the SAI administration in Kolkata seemed clueless about the matter. After several follow-ups with the sports ministry, Abha was allowed a bed at the Salt Lake Stadium dormitory. After struggling to stay healthily at the SAI dormitory, the athlete received a boost in 2018 when she was transferred to the SAI Kolkata hostel. In 2017, Abha won a gold and a bronze medal in All India Inter-University competition in Heptathlon.
“Due to my medal-winning performance in 2017, I got a bed at SAI hostel,"
Abha told The Bridge. But by that time she had begun changing her event from heptathlon to shot-put. The athlete finally was selected in the senior national camp in Patiala in April this year. Speaking from Patiala over the phone, she added, “I've been working hard since my childhood for my family, and the financial hardship which I have been going through still is my motivation. I have come up from scratches. In the last national ranking tournament, I threw shot-put of 13.59 metres. In the upcoming inter-state championship, scheduled to be held in August, I will try to throw around 16 meters. I know, if I cross the 15-metre mark, I will be able to get into the senior Indian squad.” Abha believes only an India shirt can help her ensure a job. She regretted saying, “I have no job. I cannot afford a proper diet to obtain the required strength for throwing shot-put. The food SAI Patiala provides is the only nutritious food I get. Still, I am fighting and gradually progressing. So I must have to ensure a job. I dream that after getting a job, I can go to my village with a smile on my face and my father would be proud of me. We could change our mudhouse to a proper home."
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