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Dash from hell and back: Kiran Pahal harbors Olympics dream

With a timing of 50.92s in women's 400m, Kiran Pahal became the second-fastest Indian and booked her berth for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Dash from hell and back: Kiran Pahal harbors Olympics dream

Kiran Pahal booked her 2024 Paris Olympics berth with a timing of 50.92s in women's 400m at the Inter-State National Championships. (Photo by: PritishRaj/TheBridge)


Pritish Raj

Published: 28 Jun 2024 3:31 AM GMT

Panchkula, Haryana: There were gasps and astonishment among the crowd gathered to witness the ongoing National Inter-State Athletics Championships at Tau Lal Devi Stadium in Panchkula on Thursday.

The reason behind the astonishment was the timing of 50.92s flashing on the big screen that was clocked by Kiran Pahal in the women's 400m semi-final.

Kiran herself looked stunned and stared at the giant screen for a couple of seconds before responding to the applause of the audience.

Why the astonishment though?

The reason behind everyone's astonishment was the timing clocked by Kiran being the second-best timing of women's 400m in Indian history. Her timing stands below the national record of 50.79s that was clocked by Hima Das in the 2018 Asian Games.

Not only Kiran clocked the second-best timing of Indian history but she also booked her berth for the 2024 Paris Olympics by breaching the Olympics qualification mark of 50.95s.

"I am surprised and I had never thought that I would be booking my berth at the 2024 Paris Olympics. I was happy when I clocked 52.33s in the morning but qualifying for Paris is pleasantly surprising," Kiran told The Bridge on the sidelines of the event.

Returning to the track after 18 months, Kiran ran two brilliant races in the space of 12 hours clocking 52.33s in the first round and 50.92s in the semi-final.

There was a considerable gap between Kiran and her closest competitor Devyaniba Zala who finished second with a timing of 53.44s.

While the timing was stunning and the finish looked dominating, the journey in the past year hasn't been smooth for Kiran who claimed that she went to hell and came back to clock this timing.

Kiran (black jersey) crossing the finish line in women's 400m as her competitors fall behind.

Kiran's journey from hell and back

When asked about her long break from the circuit, Kiran said," It is a long story and it will take some time to tell the whole story. Some family issues and some injuries kept me away from the track for long."

Once a national camper, Kiran had a previous best of 51.84s which she clocked at the 2022 Haryana State Championship.

While she was doing well on the national circuit, all hell broke loose when Kiran lost his father who used to support him in every endeavor. Her family hasn't been supportive and she is not on talking terms with them.

"After my father passed two years back, it has been downhill for me. My family won't talk to me after I lost him," said Kiran with moist eyes. "There are no calls from them as if they don't care about my whereabouts."

She would continue after a short breath," I haven't spoken to my mother since then. They are not supporting me financially and it was getting very tough for me to continue doing the sport."

Apart from the strained family relations, Kiran was also battling injuries. She failed to compete in the Federation Cup at Bhubaneswar last month due to a hamstring injury.

"I went to hell and came back. Today's timing is the culmination of those 18 months for me. I don't have a phone or enough money to sustain the diet but I believed that I would do well," said Kiran.

At the moment, Kiran is working as a clerk at Railways and training in Rohtak with her coach Ashish Chikara while she hails from Sonepat.

"I was battling depression and came very close to giving up the game but running is like bread and butter to me. I can't live without it," said Kiran.

Found support in her competition

While struggling with her injuries and financial issues, Kiran found a supporting partner in another quarter-miler Hima Das.

"On the field we are competitors but she has supported me with everything she has. She is senior to me and I call her Hima didi," Kiran said while talking about the support from her fellow quarter-miler.

Hima didn't only give the much-needed emotional and mental support but also helped Kiran with dietary requirements.

"Hima Didi knew about my situation. We were together in the camp and she used to give me jerseys and shoes. She also helped me with supplements," said Kiran.

Participation in Relay events tough for Kiran

While Kiran is ready to take part in both the mixed and women's relays, the Athletics Federation of India will find it tough to integrate her into the team due to the strict policy of having national campers in both teams.

However, her participation in women's 400m is confirmed and AFI president Adille Sumariwalla asserted the same.

When asked about her final tomorrow, Kiran said, "I will again run as it is the last race of my life. My focus is on running well and I think the timing improves itself."

With the Paris Olympics qualification confirmed, Kiran will have her eyes on the national record of Hima Das which stands at 50.79s.

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