Twenty-year-old Ajeet Kumar Yadav led Gujarat’s charge on Day 1 of the athletics events, defending his Under-21 5,000m crown in the Khelo India Youth Games here on an action-packed Saturday. The son of a farmer and a house-wife, the hot favourite’s success spurred his teammates to three more medals, to underline Gujarat’s rising prowess in track and field events.
Interestingly, two of the other medals too came in middle-distance runs, the Under-21 Girls 5,000m and the Under-17 Girls 3,000m, to make them the state to watch out for. The fourth medal was bagged in the Under-17 Girls long jump category, giving a huge fillip to their girls’ initiatives.
Ajeet Kumar Yadav, who started his career in the Lucknow Sports College in Uttar Pradesh at the age of 13, had shifted to an academy in Devgadh Baria in Gujarat to pursue his dreams. Since then, he has quietly been winning laurels and awards, capped by his gold medal in the 3rd Asian Youth Championship.
He will, however, consider himself lucky to clinch his first gold in the 2020 Khelo Games as he was almost caught off-guard at the tape. A late-charging Sunil Dawar from Madhya Pradesh quietly sneaked up on him with his fierce, long strides, calling for a photo finish. Ajeet was clocked at 14:39.99 while Sunil 14:40.00 to make it one of the day’s highlights.
“It turned out to be a very close race but I must reveal that I have not been training with the correct spikes for this event,” a relieved Ajeet said. “I have other targets in mind and have been practicing for them even though I had the Khelo Games also in my sight. I know I would have finished with a much better timing if I had been training with the correct spikes,” he boasted.
The lanky runner, who had won gold in the 1500m too in the last edition, is aiming for the double this time too. “Yes, I am taking part in the 1,500m too and am keen to retain that medal as well. The Khelo Games were an important part of my schedule for the year, so I am glad that I started off with the gold. This gives me huge confidence for bigger competitions around the world,” the South Asian Games’ silver medallist added.
Gujarat’s medal haul on Day 1
Gold - Ajeet Kumar Yadav (Under-21 Boys, 5000m)
Silver – Reena Patel (Under-21 Girls, 5000m)
Silver – Drashtiben Pravinbhai Chaudhri (Under-17 Girls, 3000m)
Silver – Nirma Asari (Under-17 Girls, Long Jump)
Bronze – Abhirami Balakrishna VM (Kerala) – 5.47m