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Lalita Babar

A steeplechase star from a Drought Village to the Olympics

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Indiarunning
30 May, 24 | 4:39 AM6 min read
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From a small, drought-stricken village in Maharashtra to the global athletic stage, Lalita Babar's story is one of true grit and determination. Born in Mohi, a village in the Satara district, she grew to become a formidable name in Indian long-distance running, specializing in the 3000 meters steeplechase.

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Lalita's athletic journey began to take shape in 2005 when she won a gold medal at the U-20 National Championships in Pune. This early success was just a glimpse of the remarkable career that was to unfold. Her talents and hard work were recognized in 2015 when she was honored as the Sports Person of the Year at the prestigious India Sports Awards, an event jointly organized by FICCI and the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports.

The year 2014 marked a pivotal turn in her career as she transitioned to the 3000 meters steeplechase. It was a decision that paid off handsomely when she won bronze at the Asian Games and broke the existing national record set by Sudha Singh. Her upward trajectory continued at the 2015 Asian Championships, where she not only grabbed the gold but also set a new Indian national record of 9:34.13.

Lalita's crowning achievement came in 2016 at the Summer Olympics, where she qualified in both the steeplechase and marathon. Here, she made history as the first Indian woman to enter the steeplechase final, finishing with a commendable eighth place. She raised the bar even higher in Rio, setting a national record with a stellar performance of 9:19.76.

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Behind these accolades, Lalita faced and overcame societal challenges. Coming from a village where early marriage is the norm, she defied expectations by focusing on her sports career. "My mother had told me sternly that I have to get married after I come back. In my village, girls get married very early, but I got married when I was 28. So it was a big deal for them (family) to support me for so long,” Lalita recalls, highlighting the pressure she faced.

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Lalita Babar's journey is more than a tale of athletic prowess; it's a testament to breaking barriers and redefining norms. Her commitment and achievements have not only carved her name in the list of Indian athletics but also inspired a generation of young women to chase their dreams, irrespective of societal pressures.