As a budding walker, Khushbir Kaur couldn’t afford to buy shoes

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SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association)

At Khushbir Kaur’s three-room house in Rasulpur Kalan village near Amritsar, mother Jasveer Kaur recalls that her 21-year-old daughter, who won India’s first-ever medal in women’s race walk — a silver — as the first of her five chilsdren to start walking. Khushbir started walking at nine and a half months.

“All our other children started walking after they turned one but Khushi was special,” Jasveer says. Khushbir’s father Balkar, who passed away in 2000 following a heart attack, would often make his young daughter walk on village roads and even on the boundary walls of the house.

 

She won the silver medal in junior nationals in 2008 without wearing shoes as we could not even afford a pair

A young Khushbir never showed an inclination for athletics till her older sister Harjeet Kaur opted for 3,000 metre event at the Government Senior Secondary School, Nawa Pind. Inspired on seeing her sister run, and encouraged by her mother Jagbir, Khushbir, the third of five siblingsenrolled for athletics at the school and became the state champion in the 3,000 metre race walk in 2007.

 

Training barefoot

“At first she wanted to be a sprinter. But she always loved walking. And after she became the state champion in 2007, she would train barefoot on the road near our village and I would accompany her on cycle. She won the silver medal in junior nationals in 2008 without wearing shoes as we could not even afford a pair. We did not have any land and our mother would earn a living by feeding livestock,” Harjeet says.

After winning medal regularly at the junior meets, Khushbir shifted base to Khalsa College for Women in Amritsar, where she trained under coach Baldev Singh, a former Asian Championship medallist.

“Her coach Rankirat Singh recommended her to me. She did not have training gear and shoes and we would collect money and would buy training gear for her,” Baldev says. But it was in Singapore in 2010 that Kaur first tasted success at international level in the race walk.

Determination and poise

She won the silver medal in Youth Asian Games in Singapore in 2010 before creating a junior national record in 10 K walk in Bengaluru with a timing of 49.21 minutes. Her sister Harjeet says that not having shoes to wear early in her career has ensured that she never returns empty-handed from abroad.

“When she won the medal in Singapore, she brought new shoes for our younger brother Vishwajeet, who participates in the 1,500 m. Whenever she goes abroad, she makes a point to bring a pair of shoes for us,” Harjeet says.

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