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Khelo India University Games

Children of daily wagers Arif & Laxmi bag gold medals in 10000m races

The Khelo India University Games witnessed two contrasting gold medal wins on Saturday. Arif Ali won the men's 10000m race, while KM Laxmi from Mangalore University had to sweat it out to bag the yellow metal in the women's 10000m race.

Arif Ali (left) KM Laxmi (right) (Source: Khelo India University Games)

Arif Ali (left) KM Laxmi (right) (Source: Khelo India University Games)


SS Manoj

Updated: 30 April 2022 6:16 PM GMT

Bengaluru: The Khelo India University Games witnessed two contrasting gold medal wins on Saturday with the commencement of the athletics events.

Arif Ali — physical education and psychology major student the Jananayak Chandrashekhar University in Ballia, Uttar Pradesh — won the men's 10,000m race with a massive lead of 300 metres ahead of the runner-up. Meanwhile, KM Laxmi from Mangalore University had to sweat it out to bag the yellow metal in the women's 10,000m race.

Arif took an early lead after completing two laps. His lead was sizable at the halfway mark, the momentum of which he carried to the finishing line of the grueling event consisting of 25 laps. He clocked 30:26.40 to win the gold, ahead of Rohit Yadav (31:33.11s) and Harish (36:44.40s), who won the silver and bronze medals, respectively.

This was in fact, not Arif's personal best. At the All India Inter-University (AIU) meet held in January 2022, Arif had clocked 29:18.82s to book a ticket for the World University Games to be held in Chengdu, China from June 26 to July 7. The entry standard for the event was 30:35.50s.

"All my focus will now be on the World University Games as I will be making my international debut, which I have been chasing for the last five years. I'm expecting to do well in China," said the 23-year-old, whose parents are daily wagers.

The 24-year-old Laxmi, who was initially trailing in the race of four, picked up her pace and breezed past her opponents with five laps to go. She won her first gold medal in the women's 10,000m race today with a timing of 35:49.23s. Bharti (36:20.25s) and Badho (36:44.25s) of Maharshi Dayanand University, Haryana won silver and bronze, respectively.

In the AIU meet in Bhubaneswar, Laxmi had won a bronze clocking 34:40.00s and missed the 10,000m World University Games entry standard of 34:30.00 by mere 10 seconds.

The Mangalore University student, who trains with renowned athletics coach Ranbir Singh Sidhu — also a former SAI coach in Bengaluru, hails from Kashipur village in Uttarakhand. Laxmi also competes in the women's half-marathon event, in which she had won a gold at AIU clocking 1:15:43.00s, which prompted her to qualify for World Universiade.

"The turnaround in my career came after training under coach Ranbir. I competed at several events without gaining any success. So my friends took me to Ranbir Sir about five months ago. I have won several marathon and half-marathon events after training with him," said Laxmi.

"The World University Games at Chengdu will be my first-ever international meet. I'm already excited and quite sure I will do well for the country in China. I want to make it memorable by winning a gold," added Laxmi.

Laxmi's father Heera Lal and Sona Devi work daily wagers in their village. The sports diploma student at the Alva's College in Mangaluru has four siblings. She shared that the prize money that she has won in the events she has participated in helps to run the family.

Priya Mohan dreams big

Promising teenager Priya Mohan, who won the Women's 200m gold at the AIU, spearheads the challenge in athletics for Jain University in the Khelo India University Games.

Mohan wore the biggest smile on the eve of the meet. The immensely talented athlete is excited about her prospect in the women's 400m race, She has the best timing (52.37s) among Indians in this season. Also, she will have the advantage to perform at her training ground, the Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru, which hosts all the athletics events of the KIUG.

Mohan has also been included in the Athletics Federation of India's (AFI) national camp. The sprinter supported by JSW Group will leave for Europe on May 3 to participate in continental meets in France (May 15), Italy (May 22) and Spain (May 28). "We are trying to achieve the qualification standard for the Oregon World championship this year. Priya badly needs more experience, particularly in how to build her pace. I hope, Europe will be the right place for her exposure," her coach Arjun Ajay told The Bridge.

Mohan needs to clock 51.35 seconds to meet the entry standard for World Championships. Besides the Worlds, her eyes will also be upon World Junior Championship in August in Colombia and the World Universiade in China.

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