Perhaps, the story of her life is more stirring than her feat in the Asian Games. Khushbir Kaur clocked 1:33:07 and won the silver in 20km race-walking, the first by an Indian, behind South Korea’s Jeon Yeongeun. At another level, it is an inspiring story of the challenges of a widowed mother, who had to raise three girls in a remote village in Punjab.
“It’s all because of my mother,” she kept repeating, with moist eyes and quivering voice. “She has made so many sacrifices to raise us that one cannot imagine unless one has gone through it.”
Initially, life was not harsh but after her father’s death 14 years ago, it took a terrible U-turn. “We came from a well-to-do family but after his death, life became difficult for my brother and two sisters.” Her mother, Jagbir Kaur, did menial jobs including that of a domestic help in Arslapur, a village in Amritsar, to meet the ends. “But she never let us feel we were deprived,” said the 21-year-old.
Her mother might be illiterate but the tenacity she had shown in supporting children can put literates to shame. She encouraged Khushbir to pursue the sport. Her elder sister has a masters’ degree while another one is doing BEd. “She has supported me from the beginning and has never said no to anything. This (medal) is for her,” she said.
It was a difficult choice initially to choose between academics and sport. “I was inclined towards studies and was doing well,” she said. “But my mother told me to take up the sport and I started training under Baldev Singh.”
It was not until she joined the national camp and started working with coach Alexander Artsybashev in 2011 that she began to improve. “Since then, I have broken the national record four times,” she said. “The Russian coach has done a really good job with us. I missed out on an Olympic berth due to lack of experience. All credit goes to him.”
Khushbir had won silver at the Asian Youth championships. She finished ninth at the Youth Olympics in Nanjing recently. “Now, I want to concentrate on the Rio Olympics,” she said.