A devotee of Lord Krishna and all things fashionable, Commonwealth Games silver medallist race walker Priyanka Goswami is an interesting melange, who aspires to be a designer of haute couture.
She competed in her race walk event at the CWG here on Saturday with her fingernails painted, and her hair and kits in tip-top condition. They were just the way she wanted them to be, perhaps helping her in scripting a small piece of history in the process.
"I love new things, wearing fashionable dresses. Before I go for races, I would think how to dress up my kits and which hairstyle I will have, like this," Goswami said.
Before her race, Goswami had painted her fingernails with flags of countries where she had competed.
"I have also painted my nails with the flags of the country where I compete so I have England for the Commonwealth Games, Japan for the Olympic Games, Spain because I raced there and some other flags as well.
"I also have a Lord Krishna and I take him with me to every competition and he brought me luck today," Goswami, who has become the first Indian woman to win a CWG medal in race walk, added.
Her Instagram page says a lot about her liking for dressing up well. As a child Goswami was fascinated with the bag the medal winners were presented with, but on Saturday, the race walker actually got to lay her hand on the coveted metal the podium finishers are awarded at prestigious international events.
Prior to the Tokyo Olympics last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had mentioned that Goswami had taken up athletics due to her fascination with the medal winners' bag.
"It's a big achievement, it is really tough to win race walk medal in international events. Not only winning the medal, I also made history," Goswami said during a virtual interaction after winning her maiden international medal.
"I have opened my medal account (in international events). Now, my target is to qualify for 2024 Olympics and do my personal best there. I want to do well in Paris," said the 26-year-old.
She clocked a personal best time of 43:38.83s to finish second behind Jemima Montag (42:34.30) of Australia. Emily Wamusyi Ngii (43:50.86) of Kenya took the bronze. Harminder Singh was the first Indian to win a medal in race walk -- a bronze -- in the 20km event in the 2010 CWG in Delhi.
Daughter of a bus conductor at a nondescript village at Muzaffarnagar district in Uttar Pradesh, Goswami was interested in sports from a young age. In 2007, while in class VI, she was into gymnastics for a while but started taking interest in athletics by the time she was in class IX. She was also into running 800m and 1500m before switching to race walk in 2011 on the advice of her coach.
This was Goswami's first race on track after 2014. She was competing on road races after that. She is the national record holder in 20km race walk event with a time of 1:28:4 but she was competing in 10,000m here as her pet event is not part of the Birmingham CWG.
In the last edition in Gold Coast, both the men and women competed in 20km race walk events. But in Birmingham, the organisers decided to have competitions over 10km, and that too on track.
"It was a different feeling competing on track. There was a lot of support for me with many of them waving the national flag.
"I have done 20km and 35km and so 10km was not that tough. I learnt a lot from competing in 35km in the World Championships in USA last month."
She got a warning from the judges during the race but Goswami said she was not intimidated by it.
"I was angry thinking why they are giving me a warning after the 6km mark. I had gone past halfway and they did not warn me till then. Was my technique bad that they are giving me warning now.
"I was not intimidated. I thought if I have gone past 6m, I just need to race another 4km. I thought I would focus on my race and timing and not on anything."
Asked about her strategy during the race, Goswami said, "My plan was to see in how much time I could cover 5km, according to that I was to decide how to go fast ahead in the next 5km.
"I saw on my watch that I was going 200m slow at halfway mark and so I went faster in the next 5km.
"I did not want the race to get slowed down. I was not thinking about my competitors, so I moved ahead. I did each lap faster by one second. I was focussing on my time and not on my rivals."