The vaulting ambition of 15-year-old athlete Vanshika Ghanghas

The Haryana teenager finished the women’s final in the sixth position, with a height of 3.50m – equalling her personal best, which won her gold at the U20 Federation Cup in August.

For her tender age, Vanshika Ghanghas appeared unfazed by the competition around her in Warangal.   -  Aashin Prasad

Vanshika Ghanghas was at the risk of missing out on competing in the National Athletics Championships, which began on Wednesday. The pole vaulter, after all, is just 15 years old. With the national federation's criteria deeming her underage to participate, her coach, Ramdhari Singh, wrote to the Athletics Federation of India (AFI), bearing full responsibility for the athlete’s safety. She got the go-ahead to participate and soon had the fans in her corner.

For her tender age, the bowl cut-sporting Ghanghas appeared unfazed by the competition around her in Warangal. With each passing attempt, the onlookers started to get behind the youngster wearing bib no. 208, cheering her on to clear the bar.

Ghanghas, for her part, added to the drama. She first let out a heavy grunt when placing the pole on the ground, with her eyes transfixed on the bar in front. She added a second grunt while drawing it up vertically before she made her run. There was no palpable relief or excitement in clearing the bar, and foul attempts brought on frustration as she lay on the mat. 

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After over an hour, the Haryana teenager finished the women’s final in the sixth position, with a height of 3.50m – equalling her personal best, which won her gold at the U20 Federation Cup in August.

She rated it as a memorable outing. “I am very happy!,” said Ghanghas. “I got to meet Surekha (V.S.) ma’am," she said, pointing towards the national record holder. “I got to ask her what pole she used when she broke the record.”

The youngster kept picking Surekha's brains, and the senior athlete obliged. Surekha put an arm around the youngster while walking around the track, passing on her wisdom.   

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“I asked Surekha ma’am for her number and she asked ‘why?’. I told her ‘so I can let you know when I break your record next year,'" Ghanghas said with a cheeky grin, sharing a light-hearted moment of their exchange. Surekha’s record is 4.15m, which has stood since 2014.

Ghanghas was drawn to the pole vault two years ago after watching videos on her phone. And she isn’t just good on the field. She scored 99 per cent in her 10th board examinations and is studying science. Her father, who is a government health inspector, is keen on seeing his daughter excel in sports. He was with her in Warangal, offering words of encouragement.

Ghanghas isn’t done yet and promised she will be back next year.

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