India has a rich tradition in the Shot Put at the continental level, both in the junior and senior categories, and now a young boy from Delhi is set to show his prowess on a global stage at the IAAF World Youth Championships in Donetsk, Ukraine, this summer.
Shakti Solanki, 17, threw 19.09m with the 5kg implement at the recent Indian Youth Championships. The mark currently ranks him 15th on the 2013 world youth lists for his event, giving him an outside chance of becoming India’s first ever male medallist at an IAAF World Championships at any level.
He was born in a small village named Poothkalan on the outskirts of Indian capital. Like every child in his village, he also had an interest in sports since his days in primary school. As a villager his favourite activity had been Kusti – the traditional Indian version of wrestling – and his father, Kaptan Singh Solanki, was a famous wrestler in his area.
However, he was inspired by the success of his older brother Suraj and the unrelated Ashwani Solanki from the same village, who repeatedly won medals in the Shot Put at the national level.
Suraj, 10 years older than Shakti, had won gold in the under-16 category at the national junior championships in 2002 and a silver medal in the youth division the following year, while Ashwani was the gold medallist in the inaugural South Asian Junior Championships at Colombo, Sri Lanka, in 2007 and had acquired numerous national titles at various age groups.
Solanki was spotted at the age of 13 by coach Suresh Yadav and started receiving advanced training under him, making his mark for the first time at the National Inter-Zonal Championships in 2010. Participating in the under-14 division, he tossed the 4kg implement 17.50m to win the event, surpassing the previous national best by nearly four metres.
Three months later he improved the record to 17.71m while winning the under-14 title at the National Junior Championships in Bangalore.
In 2011, Solanki moved to RD Public School in Delhi and limited his activities in the under-16 division due to academic commitments. He had won the North Zone Championships at Guru Gobind Singh Sports College grounds at Lucknow by heaving the 5kg Shot to 17.05m in August. However, a month later at the Inter-Zonal competitions held in Bhopal he could not find his rhythm and hence finished only second to Mohammed Iqrar of Uttar Pradesh, 15.96m to 15.51m.
Having tasted defeat for the first time in his life, Solanki opted to skip the Junior Nationals that year and started concentrating on strength building.
Returning to competition after year’s rest, Solanki powered to victory at the National Junior Championships at Lucknow in October 2012 by setting a national under-16 best with his 17.89m throw and avenged his defeat to Iqrar from the previous year. It improved the previous national best by 75cm.
A rejuvenated Solanki, representing the North-West Delhi, went on to take the National Inter-District Athletics Championships held in BHEL grounds at the holy town of Haridwar with an easy 16.65m.
Having experienced both ups and downs in his career in the last three years, Solanki is determined to put things straight this year. He narrowly missed the top spot at the National School Games earlier this year by just one centimetre to his state-mate Sanjeev Kumar.
Last month when entering the Brahmananda Reddy Stadium in Guntur, the town that saw him win his first ever national title three years ago, Solanki had only one thing in mind—to win the national youth title.
Competing in his first year in the youth category, Solanki opened with 17.19m before improving to 18.68m in the next. He saved his best for the final throw of the competition, unleashing a PB of 19.09m to win by almost a metre-and-a-half.
“I was thinking of bettering the national mark (19.91m) but I was tired from the high temperature here,” said Solanki after the competition. The weather conditions during the three-day competition in Guntur ranged from 45-49°C.
When asked about his ambitions, Solanki said his immediate priority is to make it on to the podium in Donetsk, while his long-term goal is to win an Olympic medal. “Many of my predecessors in India are medallists at the Asian Games and participated in Commonwealth and Olympic Games, so it is my aim to get a medal in the Olympics.”
Ram. Murali Krishnan for the IAAF
Indian team for Donetsk
200m: Asish Chikara, Mohit
400m Hurdles: Sumit Kumar Jaiswal, Parambir Singh
Shot: Shakti Solanki
Hammer: Prakash Singh
Javelin: Neeraj Chopra, Mandeep Kumar
200m: Dutee Chand
Shot: Meghna Devang