Pradeep Kumar dreamed of a job in the Indian Army, but he was rejected due to his short height. Later someone mentioned to him that if you can excel in sports, then you can get a job through sports quota in the Army. Thus, young Pradeep set out to run and now his goals are not restricted to joining the Army but are set at a very high bar. Pradeep strengthened his resolve and made running his means to achieve his goals.
Pradeep, 22, achieved the first position with a time of 30 minutes, 55.88 seconds in the 10000m of the Khelo India University Games being held here at the Guru Govind Sports College. He is pursuing an M.A. in history at Rajasthan University, residing in the Hanumangarh district. Pradeep said, “My father works as a labourer in our village. He works in people’s fields. I have an elder brother who works as a furniture maker. I also have a younger brother. I have been staying in Kher village in Najafgarh, Delhi, for a year now. Earlier, I stayed in Shri Ganganagar for four to five years.”
Pradeep mentioned that he has a friend in Kher village named Amit, who is also a coach. The reason he came to Delhi from Shri Ganganagar is that he used to fall ill frequently there. “I started racing in 2018. Boys from my village used to run to get recruited in the army. I used to run with them too. Then I gained knowledge about this game. Then I started thinking that a future can be made in this game. I was short in height, so I couldn’t join the Army. Then someone told me that I can join the Army through sports because height doesn’t matter there. After that, I became more serious about it,” he says.
All praise for his coach at Shri Ganganagar, Surendra Bishnoi, he says, “Bishnoi sir is my coach. He is also my mentor. He came to Delhi in October last year. This is the first time I am participating in the University Games. Prior to this, I participated in the Khelo India Youth Games held in Guwahati. I secured the fifth position there. I had a timing of 32 minutes.”
It is noteworthy that the national record for the 10,000 meters is held by Surendra Singh. Singh set the national record with a time of 28:02.89 minutes in the Spanish Olympic trials in Vigo in 2008. When asked about reaching that timing, Pradeep said that his personal best is 29:20.55 and with support and assistance, he can achieve it.
“My personal best is 29:20.55. This timing was achieved during the West-South Zone Championship in January this year. After that, I participated in the All India event in March, where I ran a race in 29:45. At that time, I contracted dengue fever. Next week, I have trials for the World University Games in Bhubaneswar, which is why I took it easy in Lucknow to avoid injury. Even before this race, my health was not good,” he informs.
“Khelo India University Games is a positive experience for me, just like it is for other players,” he says, adding, “The facilities here are excellent. Players don’t have to incur any expenses. It is a big support for players like me who come from a poor background. Such events provide encouragement to players like us. We get an opportunity to progress. The competition level here is also good. The boy who came in second place, Rohit Kumar (Guru Nanak Dev University), was just 30.55.94 minutes behind me. I managed to win somehow by advancing my chest.”
Pradeep’s dream is to bring glory to the country, but he needs government or corporate support for that. Pradeep said, “I want to bring glory to the country. I just need support. I need sponsors. I need a job. I can do this. I have participated in the National Championship more than 20 times. In every event, I have won gold or silver for Rajasthan.”
Pradeep is saddened by the fact that despite achieving so much for Rajasthan, he has not received any financial assistance or job assurance from the state government. He says, “The state government is very indifferent towards athletes. When I win a medal, the announcement of an award is made, but it is only on paper. They publish it in the newspapers, but in reality, nothing is received. I applied for a job two years ago, but nothing has happened so far. We even staged a protest, but it didn’t reach the ears of the government.”