Parul Chaudhary conquers 5000m gold, second medal at 2023 Asian Games
By Shyam Vasudevan
Hangzhou (ESPN) – With 30 metres to go in the 5000m on Tuesday, Parul Chaudhary had already run 7970 meters, including the 3000m steeplechase yesterday, in under 24 hours. Japan’s Ririka Hironaka was several metres ahead of her. A lesser athlete might have faded.
But, as the lactic acid in her legs started kicking in, she got a second wind. And as Hironaka looked right, Parul overtook her from the left. All the Japanese saw was a blur of blue on the inside track. The look on the two athletes’ faces told the story: Utter disbelief on Hironaka’s face, sheer joy on Parul’s as she claimed gold.
What makes it more special is that this is Parul’s second medal of the Games: she’d won silver in the women’s 3,000m steeplechase on Tuesday, finishing second only to the world champion. And the steeplechase is a demanding race: 28 hurdles and seven water barriers.
Not just that, she became the first athlete in Asian Games history to medal in the women’s steeplechase as well as 5000m. She’s also the first Indian woman to win an Asian Games 5,000m gold.
When the schedule for the Asian Games were drawn, Paul knew the kind of conditioning she needed to be able to compete in both events. Training alongside her steeplechase counterpart Avinash Sable, she built herself to handle the rigors of two back-to-back races.
It was something that both worried her and excited her. The prospect of becoming a double Asian Games medallist had her smacking her lips.
“Everyone will know me if I win two medals at the Asian Games. That’s my main target: I am competing in two events, so I might as well medal in both,” she told ESPN a week before the Games.
“It’s important for me to medal in both events because then the juniors will have someone to look up to. Sudha [Singh] didi and Lalita [Babar] didi were there when I was a junor and now I want to set an example like them. I want the juniors to look up to me and say ‘I want to be like Parul.”
She’s done her bit to set the bar. This season she’s won the 3000m steeplechase gold at the Asian Athletics Championships and followed it up with a silver in the 5,000m. A month later, she ran a massive personal best at the World Championships and finished a creditable 11th. She’s reduced her steeplechase personal best by 23 seconds and her 5,000m personal best by 29 seconds. Both are, you would have guessed by now, national records.
Athletics Federation of India shared an video on their twitter/X handle where Parul giving thanks remarks to people of India and Government.
— Athletics Federation of India (@afiindia) October 3, 2023
Off the field, she has one more ambition: to silence all the naysayers back home in Meerut who would tell her “girls should not wear shorts and compete in sports.” “This happens in every village. They pass comments if a girl is wearing shorts and running. Unfortunately, this is so common that it is considered normal. If not for athletics, gaon mein rehte to shaadi vagera ho jaati (smiles) [if I was staying in my village I would have been married]. That’s how it works in villages.”
“Earlier, they would say get married at 23 or 24. But now they say you are running so well, focus on that and we’ll look at marriage later.”