The athlete launchpad program (TAL) is a long-term program that has been created by the Simply Sports Foundation to identify and support the right sporting talents in their quest to excel and ultimately represent India. This program supports grassroots-level athletes with an aim to qualify or represent India.
One such success story of the TAL program is Ankita Dhyani. Ankita is a national-level middle and long-distance track athlete from Uttarakhand. She currently holds the junior national record in the 5km event and trains in the SAI center at Bhopal. This decorated and determined athlete aims not only to win a medal for her country at the Olympics but also to help and train young athletes who want to achieve big in sports. Following is an interesting interview on her journey so far.
Ankita has won 3 medals in her first year of transiting to the senior category. Achieving her personnel best at the 25th National Fed. Cup senior athletics competition in 1500m and 5000m with the timing 4:16.07 (Silver) and 16:13.54 respectively. She won a silver medal at the All India universities athletics championships in the 10k event and a Bronze at the 61st national inter-state senior athletics championship in the 1500m event.
Urja Mehta: Please can you tell me a little about your journey in the sport, did you start playing from school, and who inspired you to play the sport?
Ankita: I am a middle and long-distance runner and I started playing when I was in my village itself. I used to play games in school and my selection happened in states through the school itself then after playing for states and living in the hostel there in 2017 and in November I won a national medal. In 2019, I played for Khelo India and through that, I got selected for the Bhopal SAI where I have been training since then.
Urja Mehta: So you said you played in school, did a PE teacher or your parents coax you into playing the sport?
Ankita: No one really told me, but when there were matches being played, our school PE teachers would take us, and then the team would be taken and I would play well there. My primary teacher supported me quite a lot and told me I should play sports and continue playing. My parents have also been quite supportive.
Urja Mehta: Was there anyone else in your village who plays sports, or is it just you?
Ankita: It was just me from my village.
Urja Mehta: How did you hear about Simply Sport Foundation (SSF)?
Ankita: I was on Instagram and I saw it on there and I filled the form, I wasn’t too sure but I filled it out and I got a call from there then after filling it in.
Urja Mehta: After filling in the form, how was the process? Who called you? How has the process been?
Ankita: It has been one year now, I think Shashi sir took my interview. On a day-to-day basis also speak to Shashi sir about everything.
Urja Mehta: How have the mentors helped you out, are you easily being able to connect with them? Do you think in this one year you have seen a change in your performance?
Ankita: The main thing is nutrition and equipment. I think that has helped me the most. The equipment for track games is very expensive and my family could never afford it. My game has also improved a lot because of SSF, I don’t think my game would have improved so much if I was not an athlete with SSF. Even the psychological help they provide is very good and important. The thing is athletes have barely any funds to spend on themselves, one shoe costs 20,000 rupees so I cannot possibly ask my family for that when we are going through problems at home. My mind is also set now because of the psychology sessions, I don’t get as scared now before competitions.
Urja Mehta: If it was not for SSF, and their TAL scheme, do you think you would have gotten these opportunities?
Ankita: No I don’t think so, there would have been something less somewhere.
Urja Mehta: Was the selection process easy? Filling in the form etc.?
Ankita: It was easy only, did not have any issues. I got a call first and then had an interview call.
Urja Mehta: Would you recommend the TAL programme to other athletes?
Ankita: Yes definitely, this is a very good scheme for an athlete, because it supports the athlete's all-around development. Whoever wants to improve in their game, they should apply her.
Urja Mehta: What are your future plans?
Ankita: Right now I am in the second year of college, so I am studying, but I also want to continue playing internationally. In my event, I want to make an India record, in the junior category I have already made the record but in the senior category, I want to make the record so I can move forward.
Urja Mehta: Thank you for removing the time for this interview, those were all the questions!
About Simply Sport
Simply Sport is a sports policy research & development organization based in India. Simply Sport’s vision is to promote sports as an effective tool for the development of the nation. It focuses on policy research, grassroots development, and the use of technology in sports. To subscribe to Simply Sports Newsletters, Research & Articles, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow Simply Sport on the Twitter handle @_SimplySport for more sports-related content.