Encouraging the youth to indulge in sports like athletics and to raise awareness on the importance of fitness, World Athletics Day is celebrated in May every year globally. The day was first introduced by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) in 1996. The day is significant for India as we have witnessed exceptional athletes who have bagged achievements and broken records on international stage. Let us have a look at some of the athletic gems of India and their educational qualification.
Known for her graceful sprinting with long strides, Pilavullakandi Thekkeparambil Usha or PT Usha became synonymous with athletics in India. She shined at numerous Asian track-field events in the 1980s and bagged total 23 medals with 14 of them gold. She was born in a village in Kerala and studied in nearby Payyoli, hence she earned the sobriquet Payyoli Express for her lightning speed.
Hailed as the ‘Flying Sikh’, Milkha Singh was one of the finest athletes that India had ever witnessed. He clinched India’s first gold medal in the 440 yards race at the Commonwealth Games in Cardiff, Wales in 1958. Before taking up running, Singh tried to enter the mechanical engineering branch of the Indian Army but could make it after three attempts. He later joined the army and kicked off his athletics career during those days. Having migrated to India during partition, Milkha did his schooling in Pakistan.
Anju Bobby George
A remarkable sportsperson, Bobby George is India’s first athlete to bag a medal at a World Championship. The two-time Olympian also holds the national record in India’s women’s long jump. She was born in Kerala and went to the CKM Koruthode School. She had been a consistent performer and won a long jump medal at the junior Asian championships in New Delhi while pursuing graduation at Thrissur’s Vimala College in 1996.
Gurbachan Singh Randhawa
Born in Amritsar in 1939, Gurbachan Singh Randhawa emerged as one of the most gifted athletes of India. He exhibited his exceptional talent winning several medals during school days and became the best athlete of Punjab University later. He bagged gold in decathlon at 1962 Asian Games in Jakarta. Gurbachan also finished 5th in 110-metre hurdle event at 1964 Tokyo Olympics where he was also the flag-bearer of the Indian contingent. He is also India’s first athlete to be bestowed with the Arjun award.
A professional sprinter, Dutee Chand is the first Indian to win Gold in the 100-metre race at a global meet. She had bagged the medal in 2019 at the World Universiade in Naples. Dutee shot to prominence when she became a national champion in 2012 in the under 18 category in 100-metre race. Born in a poverty-stricken family in Odisha, Duete did her schooling from a local school of her village. She later went to Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT) to pursue her law degree.
A young athlete from Assam, Hima Das created history after winning gold in the 400-metres race at the IAAF World U20 Championships held in Finland in 2018. The Dhing Express had clocked an impressive timing of 51.46 seconds. She broke her 400-metre record at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta by running in 50.79 seconds and bagging a silver medal. Hima passed her class 12 examination from Assam board in 2019.
For the boy with a golden arm, the list of his achievements is long. The javelin thrower became the U-16 national champion by the time he turned 12. He won a silver medal at the Asian Junior Championships in 2016 by throwing 77.60 metres. But, Neeraj gained fame after his historic win at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics where he bagged the gold medal for his 87.58 throw. He graduated from Dayanand Anglo-Vedic College in Chandigarh and then went to Lovely Professional University (LPU) to pursue bachelor’s of arts.