Pavithra Venkatesh of Tamil Nadu's Periyar University became only India's fifth woman athlete to clear 4.00 metres in the pole vault event when she soared to 4.01m on the first day of the athletics programme in the Khelo India University Games at Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Saturday.
The All-India University (AIU) meet record of 4.00m was also in the name of Pavithra, which she had set this year in Bhubaneswar. The final-year BA English Honours student of AVS College of Arts And Science in Salem has been trained by K Elamparithi for the past 10 years. Elamparithi, an athletic trainer with the Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu, has also trained Paralympic gold medallist high-jumper Mariyappan Thangavelu during his formative years.
After starting her career as a sprinter and a long jumper, Pavithra turned into a pole vaulter in 2013. "The career I have pursued so far excites me. I have participated in 100m, 200m races, long jump, and even in 400m and 600m races. But I was astonished by pole vault," said the 20-year old. She receives Rs 15,000 as a Khelo India scholarship every month and is yet to own a mobile phone.
"My needs are taken care of with the Khelo India Scholarship and do not have to depend on my father who works in a grille workshop," added Pavithra, who had won two gold medals in 2018 and 2019 Khelo India Youth Games as well.
She has also set national records in all age categories including under-16, under-18, and youth over the years. After improving her own AIU record of 4.0m, Pavithra asked the judges to set the bar at 4.16m but her three attempts were in vain. The national record of 4.15m is in the name of V Surekha set in 2014.
"I am confident I will break the national record in the upcoming Tamil Nadu state meet to be held at Coimbatore from May 11 to 14, as I will be using a taller pole from future competitions. Surekha Ma'am told me my second jumps were superb when she saw me training in the previous state meets," said Pavithra.
Her motto is to train hard, believe in her own skills and give her best in every attempt. "And last but one, I believe in myself. My mantra is to do or die which I wear on every T-shirt," Pavithra said.
She also revealed that she used to clear 4.30m during training sessions. "But humidity did not affect me. It was fine for me." The others who crossed the 4.0m barrier include Kyati Vakharia (4.10m) and Krishna Rachan (4.06m).
Many in the event has blamed the sultry weather for their performances at the Kanteerava Stadium. "I found it difficult to breathe," said Arathy T Raghunath of the University of Calicut, who won the gold medal in the women's 400m race with a timing of 59.10 seconds. Even in 1500m events, the winners couldn't better their timings. Both men and women discus throwers blamed the heat despite the events being held under floodlights.
Meanwhile, Dutee Chand (11.68s) representing Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology University (KIITS), Bhubaneswar and Vignesh A (10.50s) emerged as the fastest athletes in 100m races of the meet which will conclude on Monday.