Odisha’s Srabani Nanda was on cloud nine on Thursday after she came to know that she has been selected for 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games.
She is part of the 4x100m women’s relay team that also includes Dhanalakshmi, Hima Das, Dutee Chand, Jilna MV and Simi NS. It’s going to be her third CWG and she can’t wait to make the country proud. However, the past three years have been a huge struggle for the Odisha sprinter, who returned from Jamaica last month after more than two and half years.
She had left the country in October 2019 to train in the Caribbean Island. Little did she know then that she wouldn’t be able to come home for more than two years. But that’s exactly what happened as the pandemic began early in 2020. Even as she trained under Steven Fransic at Kingston MVP track club, she struggled to get to terms with the country.
“The culture, food and people are very different. It wasn’t always possible to go out and hang around with friends. The training also wasn’t always easy because of the language barrier. Moreover, I missed all the social functions and love of family,” said Srabani. “Even, the ten and a half hour time gap made it difficult to catch up with family and others.”
Things were even more difficult at the peak of the pandemic and her mother feared for her wellbeing. “It was very scary at first and my mom said I should not have gone there. During that time, I lost both the grandparents on my maternal side and kept missing my parental grandparents very much,” she added. “Thank God, I could finally meet them after coming back. They are now 95 and 99 years old.”
Despite the struggles she stuck to her training though. “I trained from 4am to 8am in the morning and 1.30pm to 5.30pm in the afternoon. Sunday was a rest day. Slept at least 12 hours a day as told by coach and the remaining time was recovery,” said the Odisha athlete, who loves to paint during her free time.
After things started to normalize post the first wave of the pandemic, she was one of the first Indian athletes to return to competition in 2020 when she ran in Velocity Fest in Kingston in July. The following year, she kept taking part in multiple events in Jamaica and in the US and was also eyeing a return to India ahead of Olympics. But it wasn’t to be.
“I had planned to come to India before Olympics to help the relay team but since the second wave in India was extremely bad, I had to cancel all my tickets,” Srabani added.
Eventually she did return this year and competed in India for the first time since 2018. First, she took part in Indian GP in Bhubaneswar where she won gold in the 100m and 200m. Next, she took part in National Inter-state Athletics Championship in Chennai and won bronze in 100m and gold in 4x100m relay. But she isn’t satisfied with her showing and believes she can go even faster.
“I could have done better and I’m still working on many technical aspects. Right now, I just need to stay focussed and remain absolutely fit,” said the sprinter who won bronze in the 4x100m relay at 2010 Delhi CWG and 2017 Asian Athletics Championships in Bhubaneswar.
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