first_imgFrom a relative unknown, Ashwini Chidananda Akkunji has become a well-known name in sporting circles in a very short time.Her heroics at the Delhi Commonwealth Games (CWG) and the Guangzhou Asiad have marked the 23-year-old from Udupi in Karnataka as one with a great future.Ashwini is startled at her new found fame but is slowly coming to terms with it. “Life has completely changed for me since the CWG and Asian Games. So much recognition has come my way in recent times that I feel truly humbled,” Ashwini told Mail Today after she and several other Indian gold medallists at the Guangzhou Asiad called on President Pratibha Patil at the Rashtrapati Bhawan on Saturday.Ashwini teamed up with Sini Jose, Mandeep and Manjeet Kaur to win the women’s 4x400m relay gold at both the CWG and the Asiad.Incidentally, it was India’s third consecutive gold medal in the relay at the continental extravaganza.If this was not enough, she bagged the yellow metal in the 400m hurdles too.”The reception when I returned home was just seen to be believed. I have heard people burst into tears when I won,” she said.”This will motivate me to work even harder in the future and encourage more youngsters, especially those from a rural background like me, to take up sport as a career.” Ashwini was delighted with her interaction with the President.”She was very gracious and I am very happy to have got the opportunity to interact with her. She had a look at my two gold medals as well,” she said.advertisementAshwini was considered a relay specialist for a long time before she paid more attention to the 400m hurdles, and the results are obvious.She had clocked 59.49 seconds in the event at the Delhi CWG and failed to make it to the final. A month later in Guangzhou, she surprised everyone by registering a personal best timing of 56.15 seconds to win the gold medal – an improvement of over three seconds.”I did not take the 400m hurdles too seriously till about a month ago when I started working seriously on the event,” she said.”The competition at the Asian Games was very tough but my coach – Yuri Vogordonik from Russia – had full faith in me which gave me great confidence. He has helped me in my physical as well as mental conditioning. I cherish this gold medal a lot. I had certain technical faults in my running style in the hurdles, which I worked on. That has resulted in the significant improvement in my timings.” She has been an integral part of the 4x400m relay team for which she runs the third leg.”There is a lot of team spirit within the group which pushes the girls to do better.” And she does not plan to stop improving any time soon.”I still have a lot of clearance while crossing the hurdles and I need to work on this and other technical deficiencies,” Ashwini observed.”My next aim is doing well at the 2012 London Olympics and I want to be at my best then.In 2011, we have the Nationals, the various Grand Prix and the Asian championships and I will focus on them.” As of now, the felicitations and celebrations are taking most of her time.”I fact, I have not done any training for the last several days,” she said.last_img

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