Many not know who Purnima Hembram is. Fewer may remember her journey in Indian athletics.
On the sidelines of the Reliance Foundation Odisha Athletics High Performance Centre’s Performance Graded Races in Bhubaneswar, the now 29-year-old caught up with the media on Saturday.
And she revealed what exactly transpired after she finished fourth in the women’s heptathlon event with immense pain at the 2018 Asian Games in Doha. All the while India reveled in Swapna Barman’s gold.
“Until the last event, I had a chance to win bronze,” Purnima told News18.com.
The pain in her hamstring from the Inter State atheltics meet from earlier in June came back to haunt her.
She had pain in her hamstring again in the first event, 100m hurdles, itself and come the last 150 metres of the 800m race, which was the last event but her leg gave up on her.
“I tried my best to pull myself. But my legs just wouldn’t support me. The last 20m were particularly excruciating. It felt like I was being poked by pins on my leg. I could have run if the pain was slightly less manageable,” Purnima said.
“I had gone into depression after the 2018 Asian Games,” she said.
When tried to make a comeback, her pain did too.
“The pain returned thrice as when I was practising in the off season, there would be nothing but as soon as the peak season returned so did the pain, as I would put in more effort.”
“Last season too when I was training for the Commonwealth Games, the pain increased as I started giving more effort in training and had to give up by December,” she added.
The news if her father’s deteriorating health back home in her village Mayurbhanj district of Odisha was always on her mind.
“He was unwell when the Asian Games were going on. Now I think if I had performed well there, I could have used the money won to help with my father’s treatment more,” she said.
“Was devastated after my father’s passing as I am the eldest of my brothers and sisters and my mother was alone at home. It was difficult to manage the household, support them and continue my athletics,” she added.
With physical and emotional distress, Purnima started to spiral.
“Took part in Federation Cup in 2019 and Asian Championships. My performances weren’t that good as every time I exerted myself, I was crippled with pain. But that was not was on my mind as my father’s health kept deteriorating,” she said.
After her father’s passing she turned away from the sport that has given her everything.
“I did not come back to the ground after father’s passing. Just felt weird. Kept to my room most of the time sleeping for about two months,” she revealed.
What’s next for Purnima? The Asian Games.
A sense of unfinished business as her life seems to have come full circle in between the continental quadrennial meet.
“All that I have in my mind is that I have to give my all now. After an injury, athletes comeback stronger - mentally, physically. Want to give my personal best,” she said.
“The pain is not like before and now I want to reach the 6000 points mark at the Federation Cup and then plan to build on that,” she added.
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