Barla set for Taiwan meet

Jayesh Thaker

Jamshedpur, Oct. 27: Athlete Shanti Mukti Barla has leapt over cash hurdle on the road to an international championship in Taiwan.

The 46-year-old tribal, who is one of India's brightest medal hopes at the Asian Masters Athletics Track and Field Championship, has found four angels ' two Jamshedpur Women's College professors, one Jugsalai-based Kanya Madhya Vidyala teacher and an MLA ' who helped her raise Rs 30,000 to take part in the meet. The six-day event is scheduled to kick off from November 2.

While both Jamshedpur Women's College teachers together chipped in with Rs 20,000, the Kanya Madhya Vidyala mentor provided Rs 5,000 so that Shanti can fly to Taiwan. Jharkhand Vikas Morcha MLA Arvind Singh donated the remaining sum.

Speaking to The Telegraph today, Barla said she was touched by the gesture and also quite relieved.

"I was short of money and the financial aid of Rs 30,000 has at least ensured my participation in the Asian championship," she said.

The athlete, however, added that she needed more funds, as her expenses were likely to be around Rs 65,000 for the trip.

"I have already spent Rs 9,000 from my pocket to buy the entry form. But my persistent efforts of trying to find a sponsor have come a cropper so far," the Adityapur-based long-distance champion, who doubles up as a BEd lecturer at Jamshedpur Women's College when she is not training, said.

Sources said the athlete, who had blazed the tracks of Sri Lanka earlier this year bagging three silver medals, had been making rounds of district administration and Tata Steel's sports department offices for sponsorship sometime now, but to no avail.

"However, things are starting to look up now. I am ready to spend Rs 20,000 from my own pocket. With the kind of support I am getting from colleagues and the MLA, I should manage to pull through the competition," Shanti said.

Interestingly, the Masters Athletics Federation of India has decided not to sponsor the national team's participation in the Asian championship due to a cash crunch, but has promised to reimburse the athletes once they come back after the meet.

Veteran athletes ' like P.C. Deogam of Lohardaga, Narayan Sahu of Ranchi, Hitlal Mahto of Hazaribagh and Jaspal Kishori of Dhanbad ' though not happy with the federation's approach, have managed to raise funds for the championship.

Barla added that she was confident of putting up a good show. "The tension is gone and am feeling good about the championship," the runner, who will compete in the 5,000m run and 300m hurdle, said.

She is expected to leave for Calcutta on October 31 to catch a flight to Taiwan the following day.