A young athlete from Chamba, who has struggled his way up, has made Himachal Pradesh proud by bagging a gold medal at the South Asian Youth Rural Games 2018 in Bhutan.

The 22-year-old athlete Mohammed Ajharudeen, hailing from the remote village of Nehla in Tissa of Chamba district, bagged the gold medal in the 1500 metre race held recently at Phuentsholing in Bhutan.

He fought his own race, without much support. However, despite his achievement of bagging a gold medal, the much-desired recognition from the state government is yet to come his way.

Proud of his accomplishment, his family and villagers back home in Nehla were the only ones who celebrated his homecoming from Bhutan on 28 June. “It was a dream come true to not only represent my country at the international level games, but also win a gold medal,” said an elated Ajharudeen.

Defying the backwardness of the place from where he hails, his family had always wanted him to join the Army. After he completed twelfth standard, he put in all his efforts to groom himself to join the Army. However, he could not afford to travel to places for the recruitment process. Then he gave up hope of joining the Army.

A turning point came in his life when he watched the Farhan Akhtar film ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’. It inspired him deeply and thus began his journey to become an athlete. The motivation by an Army official during the recruitment process for the Territorial Army at Pathankot also rang clear in his ears. The Army officer had told him that his racing skills could make him a good athlete.

Ajharudeen then started to nurture a dream to make it big, inspired by the legendary ‘flying Sikh’ to become an athlete. There was no looking back. Despite no infrastructure to lend wings to his dreams and lack of any funds to support him, the narrow lanes of his village became the tracks.

“I practiced endlessly, making it a daily routine to hone my skills,” said Ajharudeen.

He began participating in local tournaments initially that included Minjar fair. “My talent got noticed by Chamba Deputy Commissioner Harikesh Meena, who came forward to help,” he said.

Persistence and hard work paid off, as he won gold at two athletics meets representing Himachal at the national level athletics at Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh in May and last month in Amritsar.

His joys knew no bounds when at Amritsar, he was selected to represent the country for the South Asian Youth Rural Games 2018 that was held in Bhutan on 23 June, he added.

Besides, his family and friends, he gives credit to his coach Ravinder Dahiya whom he met in Amritsar and who has extended all possible help to accomplish his dream.

Like many other sportspersons in the country who face government apathy, he too has faced his share of disappointment. He is now eyeing to participate and represent his country in the Asian Games 2018 and ultimately Olympics Games in 2020, he added.