From tragedy to track honours: Jharkhand teen Supriti Kachhap aces Khelo India 3000m race

On a foggy night in December 2003, little girl Subriti Ketchup with her four siblings and her mother was waiting for her father Ramswak Oraon to return to their home in their village of Prahu in the Jomla district of Jharkhand. Oraun, who was a medical practitioner in the village, went with four other villagers to the home of a sick person in a nearby village. The next day the villagers found their bodies pierced with naxalis bullets and tied to a tree.

On Thursday morning, 19-year-old Ketchup set a new Youth Athletics Federation of India record with a time of 9:46.14 to surpass the previous mark of 9:50.54 in the girls’ 3000m run at the Khelo India Youth Games in Panchkula, where he did not. Mother Palmati Devi can control her tears.

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Supriti toh chal bhi nahi sakti thi jab iske pita ji ko Naxals ne maar dia tha. (Supriti couldn’t even walk properly when her father was killed by Naxals.) Supporting my children has been a struggle for our family all these years. She loves to run and always tells me that if her father were alive today, he would be proud of her accomplishments. We know he was watching her from the sky, and when she comes home, we will keep this medal in our home in Borho Village,” Palmati said while speaking to The Indian Express from Jomla.

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After Oraun’s death, Palmati will get a job as a Class 4 employee at the BDO office in Ghagrah and the family will move to the government headquarters in Jomla. Young Ketchup often worked with the other children of the colony on the grounds at the complex before she was enrolled in the Nokrodiba Chinpur School.

While the young woman was working on the junior clay track at the school in her early years, switching to St. Patrick’s School, Jumla on scholarship would see her train with other athletes. During an inter-school competition, coach Prabhat Ranjan Tiwari spotted Ketchup, and took the young coach under his wing at the Jharkhand Sports Training Center in Jomla in 2015.

“We often go to inter-school competitions to find out tribal talents because they are naturally very good at stamina. Ketchup was competing in the 400m and 800m before that but when we did the sprint and repetition tests for long distance running, her heart rate didn’t rise and will still be between 120-140 bpm during the races. At first I had her run in the 1500m before I moved her to the 3000m event because we wanted her body to adapt mentally and physically to the long-distance events”, shares coach Tiwari.

The young man reveres the 3000m hurdles record holder Avinash Sable and hopes to make the country proud one day. (Quick photo by Jaipal Singh)

In 2016, Ketchup reached the girls’ 1500m final at the Youth National Athletics Championships in Vijaywada before graduating to 3000m at the state and national level. In 2018, the youngster was selected for the SAI Long and Long Distance Academy in Bhopal and will train under former National Silver Medalist Pratibha Topo.

Ketchup’s first national medal will come at the National Cross Country Championships in Mathura in 2019, where she won silver in the 2000 metres. In the same year, the young woman won the bronze medal in the 3,000m at the Junior National Athletics Championships in Guntur with a time of nine minutes 53.85 seconds.

steady improvement

The past three years have seen Ketchup win the silver medal in the 3000m with a time of 10 minutes and five seconds at the National Junior Athletics Championships in Guwahati in 2021 except for the bronze medals each in the 3000m and 5000m at the Junior Federation Cup in Bhopal the same year.

“Because we only focus on long-distance events, we were affected by Supriti’s stamina levels in events like these. She lacked a bit of speed at first. So we had to work on sprints, muscle memory and increasing her running miles per week. From making it close to 80 km per week, we increased it to 110-120 km per week. She needs to gain more weight according to her body to target first-level medals in the coming years and it could be a shining opportunity for the 2026 Asian Games”, shares Toppo.

Ahead of the Khelo India Youth Games, the young woman competed in the women’s 5,000m at the Fed Cup Senior Athletics Championships in Kozhikode, Kerala, clocking a time of 16min 33sec against a qualifying mark of 16.40min for Liu. The 20th World Athletics Championships will be held in Colombia in August of this year.

The young man reveres the 3000m hurdles record holder Avinash Sable and hopes to make the country proud one day. “Avinash sir also comes from a poor family and has been a role model for me. Whenever I need motivation, I see the contest videos on YouTube to inspire me and hope to win medals for India one day. I don’t remember seeing my father but I would like to dedicate this medal to him,” Share ketchup.

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