Nearly six summers ago, Punjab’s 20-year-old Baljeet Kaur was rejected by boxing experts on the ground that she does not have an inclination for combat sports. On Tuesday morning, she won gold in the grueling women’s 20km race walk at the All India Inter University Athletics Championships being held in Bhubaneswar.
The first-year Bachelor of Arts student of Patiala’s Punjabi University won the gold medal with a time of 1: 39: 10.48 seconds, but fell short of the meet record of 1: 38: 40.29.
Baljeet has raced over 10km as a junior, but was excited to win a 20km title on her debut.
“I was nervous as it was my first race over the 20km distance,” the elated Punjab athlete said. “I’m happy with my performance as I was able to win gold on my first attempt at the All India Inter University meet. I could have done better but slowed down in the second half of the 20km race as there was no one to push me. ”
The Punjabi University student stayed with the leading group for the first 10km. She surged ahead after the 11km mark and was on her own thereafter.
It was a perfect start for Baljeet as she covered the first 10km in approximately 48 minutes. The pace was good enough to clock 1:36 for the 20km distance, says her coach Gurdev Singh.
“The weather was good for the distance competition,” said Singh. “But she slowed down as the race progressed. It robbed her of a chance to officially break 1:37 barrier. “
The promising athlete from Mansa in Punjab finished seventh in the women’s 10km race walk at the World U20 Athletics Championships held last year in Nairobi, Kenya.
Her immediate future goal is to better her performance at next month’s national race walk championship in Ranchi.
“A podium finish will be a very ambitious goal at the moment as India’s elite race walkers are nearly eight to 10 minutes faster than me,” she explained. “But I will aim to better my All India Inter University performance in Ranchi.”
Baljeet’s training partner Payal from Punjabi University won bronze while Rakhi Kushbala of Professor Rajendra Singh University took home silver. Jyoti from Punjabi University was fourth.
Overall Punjabi University was declared the winner of the team title in the 20km race walk event.
Out of a total of 52 athletes, only 34 finished the 20km race.