It is just as well that Murli Kumar Gavit’s focus makes him oblivious to the fact that it has been two decades since a Gujarat track and field athlete won a National Games medal. He is untouched by pressure as he prepares to earn a distance running medal in the 36th National Games at home.
“I have been waiting for this National Games for the last few years. I am happy it is now happening in my backyard. I will give my best and make my State proud,” said Murli, who is expected to compete on Saturday.
“The State has made me who I am today and I will do my best to climb atop the podium in Gandhinagar.”
As a teenager, the tribal lad herded cattle in the remote and sparsely-populated Kumarbandh village in Dang district before his running skills were discovered. “He would run in local meets to get some money and support his family. From around 2015, the Gujarat Government has played a vital role in moulding him as a champion,” coach Nilesh Kulkarni, who has keenly tracked his progress, said.
It was not long before Murli earned plaudits at the international level, winning the 5,000m bronze for India in the Asian Junior Championships in Ho Chi-Minh City in Vietnam in June 2016. In 2019, he claimed the 10,000m silver in the Asian Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar with his personal best time of 28:38.34.
Murli last won a National-level event three years ago when he claimed the 5000-10000 double in the AFI Federation Cup in Patiala before his tryst with the 2019 Asian Athletics Championships silver medal in the gruelling 25-lap event. There can be no better stage for him to return to winning ways than the National Games.
Indeed, his task will now be to end Gujarat’s medal drought in National Games athletics competition, since Chetna Solanki’s women’s Pole Vault title in Hyderabad in 2002. A victory would surely inspire many more Gujarat youngsters to take to athletics.