How Sushil Kumar’s pep talk helped Taranjeet get back on track
Whenever sprinter Taranjeet Kaur walks through the gates of Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi, fear fills her heart. It was in 2018 that she was struck by a car about 50 meters from the main gate, leaving her motionless by a sidewalk. For the next 15 minutes, Taranjeet watched a group of spectators as none of them approached to help him.
“An archery coach recognized me and rushed me to the hospital. My collarbone was broken in three. I couldn’t do my daily chores without help for the next three months and was pretty sure my career would end, ”Taranjeet recalls.
On Tuesday, almost three years later at the same location, the 19-year-old won the 100m title with 11.54 seconds on the clock at the ongoing U-23 national championships. Daneshwari from Karnataka (11.66s) and Nithya Gandhe (11.90s) took the next two places. Taranjeet returned later in the evening to beat her 200m heats.
Taranjeet’s sensational comeback after the crash is in large part due to India’s greatest wrestler Sushil Kumar.
Advice that changes life
When Taranjeet returned to the slopes after six months of rehab, she realized that each month away from the slopes was taking away years of her performance.
“The girls I used to beat easily earlier were miles ahead of me. It took me 40 seconds to walk 200m (the best of Taranjeet is 23s). I would sit and cry after training. I had lost all hope again, ”she recalls.
Just as she was about to hang up her spikes, Taranjeet received a pep talk from Sushil at Chhatrasal Stadium in North Delhi.
“I was crying and Sushil sir saw me. He asked me why I was crying? I told him about my accident and how I can’t keep my shape. I asked if he couldn’t see the support bandages I was wearing. He said no. He said he couldn’t see it, ”Taranjeet says.
Sushil’s response left young Taranjeet puzzled. She couldn’t understand why the two-time Olympic medalist refused to recognize the bandages. “He told me that if I believed the bandages weren’t there, it wouldn’t affect me. He consoled me and encouraged me to fight harder, ”Taranjeet says.
Sushil asked the young girl to wipe away her tears and get up. “He said ‘let me welcome you for a fresh start’ and applauded me.”
The few minutes of interacting with Sushil changed Taranjeet’s life forever. “It’s a second life for me. If Sushil sir had not spoken to me that day, I would not have been here today. I am sure.
Trained in the race
Taranjeet started athletics at the age of 13 with one goal in mind: to reduce his weight. She weighed 75kg when she decided to enter Chhatrasal Stadium to meet athletics coach Sunita Rai.
“The first day I cried after running just one lap. I could not. But Mrs. Sunita encouraged and motivated me. Initially, she tied a rope around the hip of another athlete and mine. I was literally trained to run, ”says Taranjeet.
Coach Sunita says she saw a spark in the teenager and took it under her wing, although Taranjeet was “unfit for athletics”.
“I knew there was something special about this girl. The first thing I noticed was that she was very strong. I had the feeling that she would do something on the circuit and that’s why I decided to coach her despite her weight problems, ”explains Sunita.
Taranjeet’s 11.50s gold-winning run at the recently concluded Warangal Open Nationals is India’s fastest this season. The Delhi runner also won the 100 and 200 double at the U-20 Federation Cup earlier this year. She was understandably thrilled to win back-to-back national gold medals, but shoulder discomfort still hampered her performance. “When the workload increases, it hurts,” she says.
But with renewed vigor and steel-like resilience, Taranjeet believes nothing can stop him from beating idol Dutee Chand’s 100m in 11.17 seconds.
“I met her once and told her I would like to be like her. She told me “do not aspire to be like me but to become better than me”. Become a Taranjeet, ”she says.