This 15-year-old from Maharashtra is no stranger to success even at this young age. But Friday’s victory in the 800 m Girls’ finals at the Khelo India School Games would have been a particularly satisfying one for Tai Bamhane.
She was up against two formidable runners from Kerala, Priscilla Daniel and Sandra AS. Those watching the event at the Jawaharlal Stadium included an anxious Vijender Singh, who has been coaching Bamhane for the past few years. In the end, it turned out to be a comfortable win for the Warli tribal girl from western Maharashtra who clocked a timing of 2:13.37.
After the gold medal winning performance by the four-foot nine-inch athlete, her coach said that the tough life that some of these girls were subjected to because of their family backgrounds, in some cases forcing them to carry 20-30 litres of water on their heads, prepared them as tough athletes.
“Nashik’s year-round climate and the fact that it’s nearly 700m above sea level helps the middle- and long-distance runners,” the Press Information Bureau (PIB) quoted him as saying after the event.
Born to farm labourers in Dalpatpur, Tai Bamhane used to win races in her school but it was her victory in a cross-country race organized by marathoner Kavita Raut that forced people to sit up and take notice. The physical education teacher of her school immediately suggested to her parents that she move to Nashik so that he could train with Vijender Singh, who has been discovering and training new talent for nearly 15 years now.
“We do not know yet which event Tai will finish specialising in. I am a firm believer that advance specialisation in the early years of an athlete’s development is not right,” Singh was quoted as saying by the PIB.
Vijender Singh, incidentally, has been the guide and mentor for Kavita Raut in addition to distance runners Sanjivani Jadhav, Ranjit Patel and Kisan Tadvi.