Published: 13th November 2020
This nine-year-old from Jodhpur is sprinting her way to world records and Olympics. And Virat Kohli is helping
Pooja can sprint really fast — 3 kilometres in 12 minutes 50 seconds — and she's now falling in love with fast bowling
Nine-year-old Pooja Bishnoi wakes up at 3 am. Such is her discipline and dedication that only half an hour later she'd go out and start practice. While most of us are sleeping and even more of us going to bed, Pooja would be sprinting around her training ground, preparing for the next Olympics.
Yes, Pooja is an athlete, and boy, can she run!
But Pooja, who hails from Guda Bishnoi village in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, is not alone in her hope of winning gold for India. Her uncle and coach Sarwan Budhia is there every step of the way. Right from when Pooja couldn't run fast enough to leave some older boys behind. "When I was three years old, I wanted to defeat some older boys in a race. At that point, I couldn't do it. My uncle began training me soon after and a month later I raced those boys again and this time, I was able to defeat them," says Pooja. And that is how her journey as a sprinter began.
Pooja Bishnoi with her uncle and coach, Sarwan Budhia | Pic: Sarwan Budhia
At the age of five, Pooja's training led her to develop well-defined abs, which is pretty darn rare. "I had been training rigorously and continuously for a couple of years. I could run 10 kilometres in 48 minutes then," says Pooja. A year later, Pooja would go on to set another world record — she would be able to run 3 kilometres in a matter of 12 minutes and 50 seconds.
So what does an ordinary day look like for Pooja right now? "I usually train till 7 am. After training, I attend classes online. Those get over around 11.30-12 am. I rest till 3 pm and then train again till 7.30 or 8 pm. After dinner at around 8.30, I usually go to bed by 9," says Pooja. And she's not just strict about her schedule but also about her diet. A vegetarian, Pooja's diet contains very specific items and she's diligent enough to never break it. "Even when she would go to attend a wedding or any other event, Pooja won't stray away from her diet," says Sarwan.
Pooja with all her medals | Pic: Sarwan Budhia
Her talent and dedication didn't go unnoticed, however. In 2019, after participating in a competition in Delhi, Pooja was noticed by Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli's coach. "He recommended Pooja to the Virat Kohli Foundation. We got an opportunity to meet Virat and were inducted into the foundation. Pooja is the youngest athlete who is supported by the foundation," says Sarwan, adding, "The coach who trains Virat Kohli also trains Pooja. They have a similar diet and routines. We have learnt so much from the Foundation, things we'd never have thought of doing." Shortly after, Sarwan opened social media accounts for Pooja. Her Instagram page is filled with videos of her training.
Pooja now lives with her uncle and brother at Jodhpur city. "She attends school in the city and we live in an apartment provided by the Foundation. Living in Jodhpur has ensured that Pooja has access to state-of-the-art training facilities and grounds," says Sarwan. Pooja's parents are farmers and continue to live in the village. "My mother visits me quite often, around four to five days every month," says Pooja.
Pooja flaunts her abs | Pic: Sarwan Budhia
Sprinting is not the only sport Pooja is interested in, though. Currently, she is also training in fast bowling. "She really enjoys cricket and loves to bowl fast. While we are preparing for the next Youth Olympics, we are also training in bowling," says Sarwan, who had also been an athlete before a hamstring injury took him out of play. "When I had begun training Pooja, I thought that Pooja would fulfil my dream, but right now what we are doing is to make the country proud," adds Sarwan.