Priyanka Goswami walks into the record books

When race walker Priyanka Goswami missed the 20km Olympic cut by a narrow margin at the nationals last year February, she was left momentarily dejected. The 24-year-old walker knew it was only a matter of time that she booked a spot for the megaevent but little did she know back then that a pandemic would bring all sporting action to a halt for almost a year.

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Her wait ended on Saturday, at the race walk nationals in Ranchi where she bagged the gold, clocking a national record-shattering time of 1:28:45s and in the process earned a spot for the Tokyo Games slated for July this year. Priyanka erased Bahavna Jat’s 1:29:54 mark set last year at the same event where the 2020 champion missed the Games cut.

In the men’s 20km event, seasoned walker Sandeep Kumar also earned an Olympic sport and a national record by clocking 1:20:16s as runner up Rahul Kumar too finished within the Games mark.

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For 24-year-old Priyanka, earning an Olympic spot feels like a huge burden off her shoulder. She along with Sandeep have been training under national coach Gurmeet Singh in Bengaluru since 2019. After the lockdown restrictions were lifted the first thing she had to work on was reducing her weight. Priyanka was 49 kilograms when she rejoined the camp but coach Gurmeet devised a proper diet and training plan to cut it down to 44.

“ I have been really working hard and this was our first event since last year and I wanted to give my best. I am over the moon. When I took up athletics I did not even know what the Olympics was but today I have earned a berth for it,” says Priyanka in her typical jovial tone. Priyanka is very popular among the campers and has sizeable fan-following, 11,100 followers to be precise, on Instagram.

Priyanka believes all athletes, owing to their gruelling training schedules, need to have a life beyond sports. The Uttar Pradesh girl’s second love is fashion and clothing and her mother is her mentor.

“I wanted to take up fashion designing but then things did not fall in place. Now my mom tells me about the latest fashion trends. She watches a lot of television and that’s where she learns from,” Priyanka says.

Her photoshoot sessions have taken a backseat for now due to the lockdown but she promises to post more regularly now. “Aab dukan fir se khulegi . (I will become more active now),” she says while breaking out into laughter.

Priyanka is candid in admitting that she’s enjoying the media attention post her record-breaking race on Saturday. She is certainly not among those who try to avoid the camera. “I always ask my friends to take good pictures of me while I compete. I love Nike’s sportswear and who knows they’ll sign me up someday,” she says

Fast bowler Dwaine Pretorius took a record 5-17 in South Africa’s six-wicket victory over Pakistan in their second Twenty20 international on Saturday.

Pretorius’ figures were the best by a South African bowler in a T20 international and helped to restrict Pakistan to 144-7 after Heinrich Klaasen again won the toss.

A 77-run partnership for the third wicket off 53 balls between Reeza Hendricks (42) and Pite van Biljon (42) scripted Proteas’ clinical run-chase as the visitors reached 145-4 in 16.2 overs and ended their five-match losing streak.

The third and final game is at Lahore on Sunday.

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“We had good plans that we executed quite well,” Pretorius said. “I was just trying to mix up my line and length to make sure guys couldn’t line me up.”

Pakistan captain Babar Azam (5) saw a wretched run in the T20 series continue when Pretorius had him trapped leg before wicket off his second ball.

Babar, who was run out without scoring in Pakistan’s three-run win in the first T20, played across the line to a delivery which came into the batsman.

Spinners Tabraiz Shamsi (1-16) and Jon-Jon Smuts (0-20) restrained Pakistan in the middle overs with wrist spinner Shami not conceding a single boundary off his four overs.

“We couldn’t score enough runs in the middle overs and couldn’t get the partnerships going,” Babar said. “It was a similar wicket as the first match, but we made some mistakes with the ball that cost us.”

Pakistan’s middle order struggled against both spinners and only Mohammad Rizwan, who scored his first T20I ton on Thursday, again showed promise with a 41-ball 51.

Iftikhar Ahmed (20) and Rizwan tried to force the run rate but both holed out in the deep in Pretorius’ return spell.

The right-arm pacer had Khushdil Shah (15) caught behind in his last over before clean bowling Mohammad Nawaz for a duck off a brilliant yorker to better Ryan McLaren’s previous South Africa record of 5-19 against the West Indies in 2010 at Antigua.

Faheem Ashraf hit an undefeated 12-ball 30, which featured two fours and two sixes.

Shaheen Afridi (2-18) provided Pakistan with two early breakthroughs but both Hendricks and van Biljon dominated with bowlers finding it difficult to grip a wet ball.

Legspinner Usman Qadir was smashed for two fours and three sixes off his four overs to finish with 1-43.

Hendricks hit three fours and three sixes before he holed out at long off in Qadir’s last over.

Van Biljon, one of three changes South Africa made from the first game, followed in the next over when leftarm spinner Nawaz found the leading edge.

David Miller (25 not out) and Klaasen (17 not out) finished the game with 22 balls to spare.