Lack of infrastructural facilities shattered Uttar Pradesh’s promising long-jumper Jyoti’s aspirations

Jyoti from Mullahpur Khaiya, a small village in Uttar Pradesh, won the gold medal in the five-metre long jump last year at the State-level games and was selected for the national-level championship in the under-18 category.

However, she could not participate for want of means, facilities and escort. Her hopes of making it big were shattered and this will remain, as she says while showing a bunch of gold and silver medals she has won at various school and college competitions, “the biggest regret of her life”.

A student of BSc final year now, Jyoti’s run for medals began in 2004 when she participated in a long jump and 100-meter sprint event and won gold and silver medals at the district and block level championships. For Jyoti, who was in the sixth standard at that time, the acclaim she got worked as an incentive and her hunger for more medals grew. She focused on polishing her talent and became a champion at the district and later at the mandal level while she was in Class VIII.

But coaching facilities were not available at the private school she studied in her village and commuting alone to any stadium for coaching was unthinkable because today there is no direct bus from her village to Moradabad. So, Jyoti started practising long jump on the village roads. Every time she came across a pit or a gorge in and around her village, she would try to jump over it or set a more difficult goal by making markings with stones on the kuchcha road with her father Virpal Singh, a farmer by profession, acting as her coach and guide. Her hard work paid off when she won a gold medal at the State-level games held in Varanasi; but she could not take part in the national level championship despite her selection.

Jyoti, nevertheless, has at least one satisfaction. Despite the fact that people in her village are still very orthodox and prefer boys over girls, she has outshone the boys in both sports and studies and the credit, she says, goes to her father who has always stood by her.

She now represents her college in long jump events at different levels of championships but because of her studies, she is unable to have enough practice, she says. Her ambition today is to do her Masters and PhD in Mathematics and become a professor and teach young students.

Still it is not easy for Jyoti to forget the disappointment of not being able to play at the national level and tears well up in her eyes as she talks about it. “But I don’t want this to ever happen to any other boy or girl.”

She hopes that there are play grounds, sports infrastructure and coaching facilities in every village so that the talent of village athletes is tapped at initial stages.