Two months ago, Laxita Sandilea was practising for the U20 Asian Athletics Championship in Yecheon, South Korea. After winning 1500m gold in Korea, this 18-year-old hopes to replicate her heroics at the World University Games in Chengdu, China. Born in Haryana, Laxita completed her schooling in Gujarat. She did not take up athletics until late 2018, when she switched from being a state-level hockey player to pursuing an individual sport. The college student from Vadodara now holds 24 medals from competitions within the country and three international medals.
Her first international tournament was the 2022 ISF World School Sports Games in Normandy, France, where her coach Ripandeep Singh Randhawa and father accompanied her. “I bagged silver medals in the 800m and 1500m. I was very nervous and excited, as it was my first tour abroad. I didn’t know my competitors, their standards, the weather, or the track condition, but since my father and coach were present, I didn’t feel out of place,” the 18-year-old Laxita told Sportstar.
“After I came back, I trained hard. My parents and coach have been my biggest motivators. We worked on technical aspects and physiotherapy and prepared for the U20 Asian Championship,” she added.
However, there was a twist in the tale. Laxita’s father, who owns a transport business, had accompanied her to almost every event but was unable to travel with her for the U20 Asian Championship due to VISA complications. The shy and usually quiet Laxita did not let her father’s absence affect her and edged her closest competitor, Akbayan Nurmamet of Kazakhstan, by 0.69 seconds with a personal best of 4:24.23 to win gold.
Laxita’s father won’t accompany her to Chengdu as his VISA was not approved. “I’m going alone. He applied late, so he did not receive the invitation letter, without which he would not receive a VISA,” said the athlete from Gujarat.
Laxita braved a hamstring injury just a year after she began her journey as a track and field athlete. “I was demotivated after getting injured in 2020. Then I was told that if I pursued sports as a career, I would have to face injuries. I participated in the Khelo India Youth Games that year despite being injured and won silver and bronze in 800m and 1500m, respectively,” Laxita recalled.
Currently a second-year Business Administration student at Parul University, the Gujarat athlete trains at the Manjalpur Stadium. In 2022, Laxita received sponsorship from Indian Oil, which provided her with a stipend of Rs 20,000 per month to cover her training and other expenses. The international tours are funded by her university, which also promised to award her Rs 1 lakh for her U20 Asian Meet performance.
With the University Games taking place from July 28 to August 8, Laxita said the Kenyans and Ugandans will be the ones to beat. “Several athletes are tough, but in my events of middle and long distance running, the Kenyans and Ugandans are very hard to compete against,” she said.
Laxita wants to emulate Kenyan 1500-metre world record holder Faith Kipyegon. “Faith recently broke the world record, and that too after having a baby. Looking at her, I feel motivated. If chance permits, I want to compete with her once and do my best,” said the Indian.
Laxita has set her sights on winning a gold in the University Games, followed by yet another podium finish in the World U20 Athletics Championship next year. Like any other athlete, Laxita’s ultimate goal is to win an Olympic medal for the country.
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