LUCKNOW: Her race wasn’t just on the track – but against stereotypes and derision that follows when these are challenged. But then, obstacles are part of steeplechase.
Meet Kajal Sharma, a BA student of Lucknow University who will be awarded the Pirie Memorial Gold medal for being the best sportsperson during the convocation ceremony to be held on January 21. Kajal has won 20 medals in steeplechase running at the national level, including medals in 3 km steeplechase in Khelo India 2022, Bengaluru, Cross-Country National 2020 and 2021 and others.
Kajal’s village did not have school, road & electricity
Daughter of a small-time farmer in Hapur’s Kandola village, Kajal lived in a two-room house while her village didn’t have any school, road and electricity. Her father, Devendra Sharma, began to train her when she was barely 10.
In a typical west UP district, this would mean breaking the stereotypes. “My father faced opposition from relatives, friends and villagers. He was looked down upon as people would often remark ‘andhere me ladko k saath daudti hogi, papa to baithe rehte hai’ (the girl must be running in the dark with boys while her dad sits idle),” Kajal said.
She would wake up at 4 am and run until 7 am every day. “On several occasions, when we practised in the dark, dogs chased us,” Kajal said. At 8 am, she would bicycle 4km to another village to study at a government school where she met Prashant, who told her that there are hostel trials conducted by KD Singh Babu Stadium, Lucknow, and if she qualified there, her training and education would be free.
That was one of the first obstacles Kajal crossed in her life’s steeplechase. She was 15 then. She stayed in the hostel for the next two years and completed her schooling before plunging into the national athletics scene.
After a golden run at the nationals, she joined LU’s BA course in 2020. Prashant, who gave up his own athletics career to shape hers, is now her fiance. “I dedicate this medal to my father and my fiance Prashant,” said Kajal. So, what’s next for her? Kajal has set her eyes on a medal in the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games.





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