Jyoti Gawate (Photo: courtesy Jyoti)

Jyoti Gawate, Jigmet Dolma, Rashpal Singh and Sher Singh will represent India in the marathon at the 2019 South Asian Games due in Kathmandu over December 1-10, an official statement disclosing the names of all athletes selected to the Indian squad, available on the website of Athletics Federation of India (AFI), said.

For Jyoti who hails from Parbhani in Maharashtra, this is her second outing at the South Asian Games. Earlier in 2016, she had been part of the marathon team for that year’s South Asian Games held in Guwahati. In 2011, she had taken part in the Asian Marathon Championships in Thailand and finished seventh among women with a timing of 3:17 hours. She was chosen for this event because of her win at the 2011 Mumbai Marathon. AFI had funded her trip and stay. The federation also sent her to participate in the SCO Marathon in China. “ I am aiming for timings closer to that of Tata Mumbai Marathon 2019,” Jyoti, who was scheduled to travel shortly to Kathmandu for the 2019 South Asian Games, said when contacted. At the 2019 edition of TMM, she had finished second among elite Indian women with a personal best timing of 2:45:48 (for more on Jyoti, please try this link: https://shyamgopan.com/2019/02/04/jyoti-and-the-eight-minutes/).

This is the first time Jigmet Dolma is in the Indian team headed to a major event.  For the past several years, she has been part of the group of runners from Ladakh supported by Leh based-Rimo Expeditions, that travels every winter to the road races of the plains. Over time, she has worked her way up from amateur to elite category and been podium finisher at major marathons including the Tata Mumbai Marathon (TMM).  “ This is a fantastic development for Jigmet and Ladakh,’’ Savio D’Souza, Mumbai based-coach and former national champion in the marathon who has been involved with training Ladakhi runners, said.

Hailing from Igoo village in Ladakh, Jigmet used to run at block, school and state level. In 2012, she ran the half marathon at the Ladakh Marathon without any prior practice and emerged first. At the 2013 Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon (later TMM), she placed 17th in the half marathon. Same year, at the 2013 edition of the Ladakh Marathon, she finished first in the half marathon with timing of 1:50. In 2014, she improved her performance at SCMM to fourteenth position. Same year she retained her first position at the Ladakh Marathon. In January 2015, she ran her first full marathon at SCMM, ending second among women in the open category (timing: 3:45:21), her first podium finish in Mumbai. By 2017, she had graduated to finishing third among Indian women with timing of 3:14:38; two years later at 2019 TMM, she placed third among elite Indian women with timing of 3:10:43. Jigmet has never been shy of stating her wish to run for India one day. She along with fellow runner from Ladakh, Tsetan Dolkar, has been a familiar duo at various road races, particularly the annual Mumbai Marathon (for more on Jigmet, Tsetan and other runners from Ladakh, please refer the archives of this blog or type their names in the box allotted for search).

For Rimo Expeditions and Savio, Jigmet’s debut in the Indian squad – coming as it does after years of regular visits to road races – will mean a lot. “ As far as I know, after Rigzen Angmo, Jigmet is the first woman marathon runner from Ladakh to represent India,’’ Savio said. In the 1990s, Rigzen Angmo who hails from Skarbuchan village about 125 kilometers away from Leh, had been a regular podium finisher on the national circuit. Abroad, she won the Kuala Lumpur Marathon in 1994 and the Bangkok Marathon in 1995 (for more on Rigzen Angmo please try this link: https://shyamgopan.com/2015/09/28/the-spectator/). “ This is the dream we had in 2012, when we started the project of training long distance runners and sending them to races in the cities. It is heartening to see one of them make it to the Indian team. I am sure this will encourage more youngsters from Ladakh,” Chewang Motup, owner of Rimo Expeditions said of Jigmet’s selection. He also hoped that greater support would manifest for such projects.

Jigmet Dolma (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

All four marathon runners selected for the 2019 South Asian Games had been podium finishers at the fourth edition of the IDBI Federal Life Insurance New Delhi Marathon held on February 24, 2019. Rashpal Singh had won the race with timing of 2 hours 21 minutes and 55 seconds. Sher Singh had finished second among men with timing of 2:23:16 followed by Manavendra Singh (2:28:27). The three men were then training at the Army Sports Institute (ASI) in Pune. Among women, Jyoti finished first with timing of 2:47:54. Jigmet placed second in 3:01:30 followed two seconds later by Tsetan Dolkar (3:01:32) who placed third.  The top two from both gender categories are now headed to Kathmandu for the 2019 South Asian Games.

(The authors, Latha Venkatraman and Shyam G Menon, are independent journalists based in Mumbai.)

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