The recently concluded inaugural edition of Khelo India School Games provided an impetus to a series of emerging talent from far deprived corners of India. Sons of humble farmers, daughters of daily wagers — the games featured thousands of inspirational characters who showcased their acumen across various disciplines.
One such defining character is 17-year-old Vikas Yadav, whose astonishing performance in the games has won many hearts. Vikas clinched the coveted gold medal in the boy’s javelin throw event acing a long 75.02m throw. It was followed by Yashveer Singh (73.87m) and Arpit Yadav (71.90m), who won the silver and bronze medals, respectively.
Seeing the jubilant Vikas performing in the KISG was a delightful sight. Vikas had broken the U-16 national record in November last year at the 33rd Junior National Athletics Championship with a throw of 74.73 m at the javelin event. He draws his inspiration from Neeraj Chopra, who is the currently the Indian record holder (82.23m).
“I feel really happy about Neeraj who is setting goals for us at the senior level. I hope one day I will be able to perform like him,” said Vikas in an interview with The Bridge.
The teenager hailing from Kaulapur village in Bhadohi district of Uttar Pradesh participated in the KSIG on behalf of Maharashtra, as he has been a cadet of the Army Sports Institute in Pune for the past two years.
Vikas’s story of foraying into a javelin throw was quite surprising. As a boy in his early teens, Vikas used to run around a playground near his village. One day, he drew the attention of Rajesh Kumar Bind, who represented India at the 2012 Junior World Championship in Barcelona and broke the national record with a throw of 80.14 m. “Sir (Rajesh) found that I had a good height and that’s why he told me to take up javelin throw. Everyone in our village used to respect him and that’s what motivated me to take up this sport. He has become my role model,” said Vikas.
But Javelin throw needs practice, how could Vikas manage without a javelin? Well, since he had the will to do, he found out a way by making makeshift wooden javelins. Vikas told, “During my earlier days, I had nothing but the makeshift wooden javelin to practice. I almost became a laughing stock for my villagers and neighbours who tried to pull me down saying I won’t be able to do anything like this. But today, the same people feel proud for me.”
The only man to help Vikas was Collector Singh, a veteran javelin thrower from his village, who bought him a spike for practice and trained him for one and a half year. With utmost commitment and labour Vikas’s throw improved with days and when he was able to achieve the 57m mark, he was called for trials in Pune by Rajesh. Vikas put up an impressive performance in the trials in 2016, and since then he became a part Pune’s Army Sports Institute, which brought 12 gold medals in this year’s Khelo India School Games.
“It was in Pune, I met with my new coach Rakesh Rawat, who provided me with all the necessary training in javelin throw. I owe my success to Army Sports Institute. Every athlete in the institute are groomed professionally and it offers all-round training in various disciplines like boxing, archery, weightlifting, fencing, and wrestling, among others,” said Vikas.
A focused Vikas now lives at his hostel room in the institute. Weekdays usually go in intense practice and weight training for him. Only on weekends he uses his mobile phone and indulges in some entertainment.
When asked about the support from Athletics Federation of India (AFI), Vikas said that the Federation has called him for the national javelin throw camp in Patiala, for which he would probably leave in a week.
Vikas has earlier won the bronze at the Youth National Games in Hyderabad, with a throw of 69.59 metres in April 2017, and silver at the Junior National Games, with a throw of 62.98 metres in November 2016. He is now preparing for the Youth National Games, to be held from July 15-18. Those who win the top two slots in the competition qualify for the Youth Olympic Games in Argentina.
The way forward
The teenager, who has won a scholarship for his performance in the Khelo India School Games wish to use the money for his training purpose. “For us, it is essential to have the proper kit and supplementary diet. Besides, a professional fibre-made javelin costs around Rs 1.5 lakh. I would like to use my scholarship to make sure I get the necessary equipment for myself,” he said.
The boy with his gleaming eyes is determined to reach the 80-metre mark in the javelin throw. Maybe, his entry in the sport was sheer coincidence, but he has found a reason to work hard with utmost perseverance, and the reason is to bring laurels for India in the 2024 Summer Olympic Games.