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Athletics

Milk and curd are secret of my fitness: 95-year-old champion Bhagwani Devi

95-year-old World Champion Bhagwani Devi Dagar has attributed her healthy food habits as the reason behind her fitness.

Milk and curd are secret of my fitness: 95-year-old champion Bhagwani Devi
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Bhagwani Devi Dagar with her three gold medals at the World Masters Indoor Athletics Championship 2023 in Torun, Poland.

By

PTI

Updated: 4 April 2023 12:30 PM GMT

Bhagwani Devi picked up the shot put for the first time at 94. Up until then, she had lived a life of hardship and sorrow.

Born in Haryana's Khedka village, Devi lost her son and husband before she turned 30. She was pregnant with their other son at the time. Four years later, her elder daughter died.

She decided not to remarry and worked long hours in the field to fend for her family. She also underwent a bypass surgery in 2007. All the past sorrows turned to happiness when she embraced sports.

Within six months of taking up athletics in January 2022, when her grandson and coach Vikas Dagar gave her a shot put, Devi won three medals at the World Masters Championships (outdoors) in Finland last year.

She won gold in 100m and a bronze each in the shot put and discus throw in the 90-94 age category. Soon, word spread about her achievement and people started calling her 'Sprinter Dadi'.

Now, at 95, when people are barely able to walk, Devi is 'sprinting' toward her dream of bringing laurels to India. Last week, she clinched three gold medals at the World Masters Athletics Indoor Championship 2023 in Torun, Poland in a 60m sprint, discus throw, and shot put.

Just being able to compete at international sporting meets at this age is a testament to the Najafgrah nonagenarian's fitness and resilience as she continues to defy age. And, she doesn't plan to stop any time soon.

"Aur jeetungi, jab take jeeungi tab tak jeetati hi jaaungi. (I will win more, till the time I'm alive I will keep winning medals)," she said on Tuesday after returning from Poland.

"Mere fitness ka raaz hai desi khaana, mera bypass ho rakha hai, chiknai nahi khaati. Dahi, doodh khaati hu. (I have had bypass surgery so I don't eat fat. I eat curd and milk)", said Bhagwani Devi.

According to the championships' website, Devi ran the 60m sprint in 36.59 seconds. She competed in the women's 85-plus category (a combined event of W85 and W95) and she was the lone runner in the W95 category.

Five other competitors of W85 also ran along with her and they were awarded separate gold, silver, and bronze medals. In the shot put, Devi produced a best throw of 2.93 meters and she was the lone competitor in the W95 category.

Just like in the 60m sprint, she took part in the shot put in a combined W80-plus event along with competitors of W80, W85, and W90 categories. Each of the sub-categories of W80, W85, and W90 -- as well as W95 -- were awarded medals.

In discus throw also, she was the lone participant in the W95 category and produced an effort of 4.67m. Just like in the other two events, she competed in a combined event of W80-plus discus throw along with participants of W80, W85, and W90.

"Her next target is the Asian Master's Championships in November in the Philippines. She will be competing for the first time in the Asian Championships and we are hoping to win gold medals there as well," her coach Vikas, a para-athlete who has won medals in the long jump and 100m for India in international meets, told PTI.

"After that, she will compete in the World Masters Championships (outdoors) in Sweden next year and we are hopeful she will do better than the gold and two bronze she won in Finland last year." Asked how he first thought his grandmother could compete in the international arena, Vikas said, "When she threw the shot put for the first time... because of the knowledge I had... I knew she would do great. I have played two Asian Games."

He shared an anecdote about his grandmother's desire to win the "yellow" medal all the time. "Last year, when she broke the national and Asian records to win gold, at that time she also won two bronze.

When she won the first medal -- a bronze -- in the shot put, she said, 'yeh mere wala nahi hai' (this is not mine) because she always won gold in the nationals. When she won gold later in the evening, she said 'Yes, this is my medal'."

Devi walks six kilometers a day, five days a week, and undergoes technical training on Saturdays and Sundays. "We cannot let her do too much training at this age. Her muscles will not allow it. As far as her diet is concerned, she eats everything prepared at home but avoids things which have lots of fat as she has had bypass surgery," Vikas said.

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