Rakhi Sharma (42), tricity’s lone Master Athlete, to have won a medal – a Bronze in the 800 m event at the recently concluded Asia Masters Athletics Championships (AMAC) in Philippines, addressed a press meet along-with her coach Arvind Kumar at the Chandigarh Press Club here. The AMAC which is a biennial championship was held in the Philippines from November 8 to 12. The competition was fierce, with 23 countries taking part. Despite a lingering and severe leg injury, Panchkula’s Master Athlete Rakhi Sharma won a medal.
Her path to competing in and subsequently winning a medal at the international championship was fraught with difficulties. She fell while training with her coach Arvind Kumar at Tau Devi Lal Stadium just before the championships and injured her leg. However, she didn’t give up and decided to go to the Philippines. As there was no government assistance, she had to bear all expenses herself. Despite this and her injury she managed to win a medal.
Rakhi said, “I rue the fact that the district and state administration failed to recognize my achievement. No one came to even congratulate me, let alone providing financial aid for my expenditures. Since the last 9 years I have been putting in so much time, energy, and spending huge sums of money and have even been winning medals for the country, but I have got nothing in return.”
Before this Rakhi has won two gold medals in the Open International Championship in Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia this year. She won a silver medal in the Chennai Nationals in 2023. She also won three gold medals at the 2017 nationals in Prayagraj. What’s more, she won two silver medals at the Guntur Nationals and one at the Manipur Nationals too. She has been training and participating in championships for so many years with her own money not a single ‘paisa’ of assistance has come her way from the government.
Rakhi added, “The Indian contingent led the charts in the Philippines with a total of 215 medals, but the attitude of the central government smacked of apathy. She questioned that if para-athletes receive so much acclaim and support despite not winning an overall championship at an international level, then why have achievements of Master Athletes been overlooked in spite of their outstanding performance at the recent Asian Championships.”
Rakhi’s coach Arvind Kumar demanded that the government should pay the expenses of the international players’ travel and stay. “Players who bring medals in Masters Championships abroad should be given a prize money that is commensurate with their achievement as the athletes make the country proud.” Kumar added, “Apart from this, the government should organize felicitation ceremonies for players who win medals in international championships, as this increases the morale of the players.”
Meanwhile Rakhi said that she is planning to forsake her passion for ‘Master Athletics’ since after devoting so much to the sport, she has been left alone and has suffered as a result of not devoting enough time to family and her business, she owns a gym in Panchkula.