So, do we finally have a Milkha Singh in the making? So what if the feat is only at an inter-school level yet?
While a barefooted Sayali Mhaishune of RM Bhatt High School (Parel) was breaking new ground against all odds at the District Sports Office inter-school athletic championships at Priyadarshini Park, her father Mangesh was mending shoes in his shop in Dadar.
It was a normal Monday, laden with work for Mangesh, who was busy digging into torn footwear and polishing dull shoes when mid-day caught up with him last evening. His 14-year-old younger daughter had just won her maiden U-17 gold medal in the 3,000 m event a few hours ago and he could not stop smiling as he discussed her feat and rued his inability to witness it.
Mangesh earns between Rs 3,000 to 10,000 a month, and could not afford to shut shop even for a day.
Sayali clocked 12:27.8 seconds to win gold, beating defending champion and school mate Sejal Kadam (13:08.1s), who is two years her senior, in the process.
Sayali’s feet laid bare the truth of her poverty. “My father can’t afford to buy me spikes, so I’m used to training barefoot at the Naigaon Police Ground track,” said young Sayali. A pair of running spikes cost anywhere between Rs 500-2,000.
Yesterday’s synthetic surface at the PDP however, posed a painful challenge. “As I practice on mud, running on this rough synthetic surface was very tough. The track was very hot too as our races were around noon. Around the halfway mark, I was dehydrated, but somehow kept running. I didn’t expect to win a medal, my aim was simply to finish the race. Spikes would have definitely helped me run faster here,” said the Std IX student, who also participates in prize money-yielding mini marathons across the state in a bid to reduce her parents’ financial burden.