DNA | Last Modified - Nov 26, 2010, 04:36 AM IST
Bangalore: The small village of Gensale in Siddapur panchayat limits of Kundapur taluk, Udupi district is basking in golden glory. On Thursday, the entire village was at the doorstep of arecanut farmer Chidananda Shetty, partaking in his joy over his daughter, Ashwini Akkunji's gold medal winning feat in 400 metre hurdles at the Asian Games being held in Guangzhou, China.
Ashwini's Asiad feat came less than a couple of months after her success at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi where her third leg run in 4x400 metre relay won her team the gold.
As the TV sets flashed the news of Ashwini's Thursday victory, Gensale villagers made a beeline to Shetty's residence, which is now flooded with water on all its four sides due to incessant rains in the region. The only approach keeping the house from becoming an island is a rattling and half-submerged bridge woven with paddy stalks.
People took turns to congratulate Chidananda and his wife Yashoda on their prodigal daughter's achievement. "We came here from Siddapur about a month back when Ashwini had won a gold medal in the Commonwealth Games. It was pouring but I and my friend Soma drove down to reach her house. It was flooded and Chidanandanna and Yashodakka were busy clearing the water. They could not watch their daughter's victory in the CWG event as there was no power at home and the cable network had also been disrupted," said Ratnakar, who used to practise with Ashwini.
This time, however, the household ensured that they did watch Ashwini win the gold medal in Guangzhou. "We cheered when she crossed the finishing line," said Shetty.
Elated by Ashwini's success, Shetty and Yashoda were in tears as they remembered the tough days when the athlete used to practise barefooted at her middle school, about three km from their house.
"She used to run barefoot all the way to the school, unmindful of the rough surface. Our financial condition was also not good. All we could manage for her nourishment was vegetables, ganji (rice porridge), and occasionally fish. We wondered from where she got all the energy from," said Ashwini's parents.
Ashwini has an elder sister Dipti and brother Amith Shetty. "We are farmers but all my children are settled in their careers in big cities. Yashoda and I are here looking after my five-acre farm and areca plantation," said Shetty.
Ashwini was selected to represent the state in 400 metres at the all-India rural school sports meet held in Bhubaneshwar in 2001. There was no looking back ever since.
She joined Vidyanagar Sports School in Bangalore and became a sports scholar in the Sports Authority of India at Nagarbhavi.
Her one time coach, Manjunath, was happy to hear about his ward's latest triumph. "I knew this girl had something in her. She always admired Indian women athletes, particularly Vandana Shanbhag, Valsamma and PT Usha. But she never bragged about herself and only let her timings speak of her talent," said Manjunath.