Gold at the 2018 Junior Asian Athletics Championships should come with the promise of better news. This is what 800m specialist Anu Kumar was hoping for. With the win, he dreamed of making it big on the track, but the 18-year-old’s happiness suddenly collapsed. A broken ankle, tough lockdown, and his father’s death followed success on the track.
Now he will hit the track in his first international competition since winning the continental title at the U20 World Athletics Championships in Nairobi. It will be a difficult task for the youngster to follow in the footsteps of former U20 gold medalists Neeraj Chopra (2016) and Hima Das (2018), but his goal is to honor his father’s memory. His father Mahipal Singh delivered gas bottles in Haridwar until he lost his job during the pandemic lockdown last year and died in December. “My father always wanted me to do well in athletics. I thought if I get to New Delhi today, I’ll give him a call. I almost forgot for a second that he is no longer, ”says Anu, still on the way from his base in Patiala to the capital. “Then it got me. I don’t know who I’m going to share my stories with now. I’m still lost. “
The athletics squad is due to leave for the world event in Nairobi on Saturday evening. After his Asian triumph in 2018, Anu’s expectations soared. He was the favorite to secure the spot for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games but was defeated by Sreekiran Nandakumar in Bangkok Asia qualifying after an ankle problem kept him down. “The pain was excruciating, so I had to have an MRI to find the cause. There were problems with the cartilage in my ankle. It was the workload. The injury kept me from physically demanding activities for a long time, ”said the World School Games silver medalist.
The path to recovery was made difficult due to a lack of competition after the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Indian track and field circuit had stalled until March 2021 when the Federation Cup was organized in Patiala. Despite all these setbacks, Anu continued to train with his trainer in the hills of Pauri Garwhal. And just as he found his rhythm and was keeping the timing right, the heartbreaking news of his father’s death came.
“My recovery was complete and I was doing really well. I got a call at 5:00 am and couldn’t process what had happened. I still can’t. He was my greatest supporter and best friend. I shared every little detail of my sport and life with him. It was his dream to see me run, ”says the teenager.
Anu was so surprised by this loss that he decided to hang up his spines. He saw no point in continuing the sport if his greatest supporter was not by his side. For the next three months, let alone training, Anu didn’t even leave the house. It was then that Anus’s brother-in-law, who had inspired him to start athletics in the first place, decided that he had to step in.
“My brother-in-law told me that I can’t sit and cry like this and that I must honor my father’s memory and wishes by walking. My father’s death broke me, but I really had to work (to come back), ”he recalls.
He may not be in the best shape right now, but he has a new power in the way he approaches it. He knows age is on his side and there are still many competitions to come where he can be at the top of the podium. But Anu says there are some little joys that life has now snatched away that even gold at international meetings can’t be compared to.
“My father used to make the best fish curry in the world. Whenever I went home, he would do it for me, ”he says. “I know I can’t get this meal anymore and I long for it. Medals toh aate rahenge, lekin phir se papa ke hath ka khana khane ka mauka nahi ayega (Medals will come and go, but I know that I will never have my father prepare a meal again). “