Uttar Pradesh’s Ram Baboo’s story is one of triumph over all odds. On the concluding day of athletics competition at the National Games in Gujarat’s Gandhinagar on Tuesday, Baboo bagged the gold medal shattering the national record in the men’s 35km race walk event.
Baboo, an unemployed physical education graduate, won the event in 2 hours 36 minutes 34 seconds, bettering the earlier national record of 2:40.16, which was in the name of Haryana’s Juned Khan who finished second on Tuesday with a time of 2:40.51.
During the Covid-19 lockdown, Baboo, who hails from Bahuara village in Uttar Pradesh’s Sonbhadradid, did odd jobs to tide over the tough times. He worked as a waiter at a hotel in Varanasi and also as an MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) worker.
“I worked in MNREGA digging ponds with my father. My parents had a card so I would work on that. During the lockdown, I couldn’t train so that was the work I did. We had to make a road or dig ponds. We worked for two months. They didn’t pay us daily. They calculate how much earth we removed and then pay us based on that. I made around ₹200-300 a day,” Baboo said.
The 35km race walk event was introduced in India only last year in the wake of World Athletics’ decision to do away with the 50km event after the Tokyo Olympics.
“I will keep working hard to replicate such time on an international platform too,” Baboo said after the event. He was also the inaugural champion in the National Open Championships in Warangal last year when he won in 2:46:31.00.