Winning the gold medal in 1500m at the last Asian Championship back in 2017, seems to be the key inspiration for PU Chitra. The Indian middle-distance and long distance athletes were in Ooty in national preparatory camp for the ongoing Asian Championship last week.
Chitra, speaking to The Bridge from the preparatory camp over phone informed, “I won the gold medal two years ago at the same Championship. Now, during the preparation for the same event, I have set my previous timing and trying to reduce it in everyday’s training. I am telling myself I can also achieve gold this time.”
Chitra has another significant person to inspire herself continuously. She is OP Jaisha, the middle distance international runner from Kerala who has reportedly quit running. The 24-year-old athlete who also settled for a bronze at the Jakarta Asian Games said, “Jaisha is my favourite middle-distance runner. Previously, when she used to train regularly in the national camp I used to watch her training. After the gold medal in 2017, she congratulated me and gave me a few important tips on the technique of long-distance running.”
“She had advised me mainly on breathing while running, as it is crucial in the highest level of athletics. I have still been following her advice and it has helped me to reduce my timing also,” she added.
Chitra clocked 4 minutes and 17 seconds to earn gold at the Asian Championship in 2017. She earned the bronze medal in Jakarta Asian Games, reducing her time to 4 minutes and 12 seconds in the 1500m. Then following a knee injury Chitra was ruled out of the track for almost three months. But she did not give up.
Her personal coach Sijin NS, the award-winning physical education teacher from Mundur Higher Secondary School remembered while speaking from Mundur on Tuesday, “Chitra’s parents were daily labourers. It often happened that her parents failed to find a job. During the early days of her career, Chitra had to spend many sleepless nights with empty stomach. She did not give up even that time. I used to see her at the school training ground sharp at 5.30 AM in the morning. More importantly she never told me she did not have food the previous night. Her mental strength is tremendous.”
Despite winning the gold medal in 2017 Asian Championship, Chitra was excluded from Indian squad in the World Championships held in London the same year. Simultaneously, Chitra highly need a job which she was not getting despite earning medals. She finally got a job in Southern Railway in September 2018.
Commenting on receiving the appointment letter one year ago, Chitra said, “My father received the letter on my behalf from Southern Railways. Preeja Sridharan, the former international middle-distance athlete from my state wished me as well. But I seemed to have been waiting for someone special’s call. Just within a couple of days I got a call. It was OP Jaisha’s. I was overwhelmed.”