Priyanka Goswami, 25, shattered the national record in the 20-km walk at the 8th open national and 4th international race walking championship in Ranchi on Saturday with a timing of 1:28:45. She broke Bhawna Jat’s record of 1:29.54 set at the same event last year.
This, however, was not a fluke. After joining the Railways in March 2018 through sports quota, Priyanka has won two silver medals at national level in 2017-2018. She also bagged gold in the all-India railway competition (2018) and has participated in World Walk Championship in Italy (Rome) and in Asian Walk Championship Japan.
“I had made up my mind last year when I missed the event by a narrow margin of 36 seconds. It was then that I decided to make it to the international meet this year. Luckily, I got two qualifications (World Cup and Tokyo Olympic),” Priyanaka told TOI from Ranchi.
Priyanka, who also received Rani Laxmi Bai award from UP government on January 24 this year, said she wished to have her picture clicked with Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath during the felicitation function but could not make it as she was busy in a camp.
“Now I will fulfil my wish when I will return after winning medals in international events,” she added.
“I am not able to believe this is true as I am emotionally overwhelmed. Now, I want to win gold for my country,” said Priyanka, who is currently being trained by two-time Olympian Gurmeet Singh.
“I was being groomed as a gymnast till Class 8. I was even sent to KD Singh ‘Babu’ Stadium in Lucknow for training but after taking a two-year break, I got inclined towards track and field events at the age of 12. During childhood, I failed many times but did not give up and neither my parents nor my principal Usha (at Seth BK Maheshwari Inter College, Meerut) lost hope. She would allow me to attend classes once a week so that I could train myself,” Priyanka recalled.
Priyanka did her graduation (arts) from Patiala. She scored 72% in high school and 58% in intermediate.
“My journey to race walking began with my ‘zid’ (firm resolve) to win a bag at a district-level track and field event organised in Meerut (January, 2011). After I lost in various categories, my coach BK Vajpayee and Gaurav Tyagi forced me to participate in race walking which I won (third position). Later, I won gold and silver while representing Meerut at junior national level walk racing. I never looked back since then,” she added.
Honorary secretary UP Athletics Association PK Srivastava said, “Since the Ranchi meet was a qualifier, three international judges conducted the race. It was a great achievement for Priyanka that during the 20-km course she did not receive a single warning.”
Her father, Madan Goswami, is a contractual bus conductor with UPSRTC and is currently under suspension.
Originally hailing from Sagdi village of Muzaffarnagar district, her family of five currently resides in Meerut. Her younger brother, Kapil Goswami (22), is a boxer but had to join a private job in Delhi due to the poor financial condition of the family. Her eldest brother Rahul (adopted son) is a ‘kathawachak’. Her mother Anita Goswami is a housewife. Priyanka is posted as clerk in the personnel department of Izzatnagar railway division of NER in Bareilly.
After qualifying for the Olympics, Priyanka made the first phone call to her father to inform about her achievement. “It’s an emotional moment. My daughter is a true champion and I’m proud of her,” said a teary-eyed Madan Goswami.
NER general manager Vinay Kumar Tripathi and other senior officers, along with NER Sports Association officials, congratulated Priyanka for her achievement.
The second position-holder, Bhawana Jat from Rajasthan, is also from Eastern Railway. She cleared the race walk in 1:32:59. Bhawana, who was last year’s national record holder, has also qualified for Tokyo Olympics.
Sandeep Kumar (Haryana) and Rahul Kumar also qualified for the world athletics meet in men’s category.