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Cobbler's daughter runs without shoes, wins gold

The youngster ran the District Sports Office inter-school athletic championships at Priyadarshini Park yesterday and won.

Sayali Mhaisune
India’s newest barefoot runner: 14-year-old Sayali Mhaisune

14-year-old Sayali Mhaisune of Mumbai is not your average teenager. The youngster, a student at the city’s RM Bhatt High School, was born to cobbler Mangesh Mhaisune and his wife, and the worksmith, who earns a meagre amount per month, is like any loving father.

Yesterday, he was unable to see his young daughter perform in the District Sports Office inter-school athletic championships at Priyadarshini Park. Mhaisune, whose wages are dependent entirely on his day’s business said he could not afford to miss even a day of work. “ I wanted to go, but couldn't because feeding my family is more important than going to watch her run," he said.

He also has an older daughter, Mayuri, studying towards a diploma in Information Technology. The 46-year-old’s wife is not in good health, and part of his income goes towards her medical bills.

The youngster needed a set of running spikes to compete on the synethetic surface at Priyadarshini Park, in the searing heat and humidity of Mumbai. “I was dehydrated, but I kept running,” the persistent teen told Mid-Day, saying she was not aiming for a medal at the tournament, but ran with the goal of finishing the race.

“I’m used to training barefoot, because my father can’t afford spikes,” Sayali said, in a cruel twist of irony. The specialised running shoes can be bought for around ₹400, which may seem like a trivial amount to many, but one her family could not bring together.

Sayali participates regularly in marathons with cash prizes to help her family financially, and her father has promised to support her any way he can. He prepared to celebrate his daughter’s win with a “bar of her favourite chocolate, and the youngster has said she will continue to strive towards achieving even bigger goals in the future.

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