Image Credits: @Yashwanth Kumar
19-year-old Yashwanth Kumar Laveti rewrote the 110m Hurdles (U-20) national record books en route to gold medal at the National Junior Athletics Championships in Guwahati —but he would be the first to tell you he’s got a long journey ahead.
His father was the reason Yashwanth is involved in athletics and their relationship through sport was deep and profound.
Right off the bat, he showed promise as a novice, and he counts himself lucky that he grew up in an area where hurdles is even part of the school track program and around some tremendous coaches.
The Andhra Pradesh native has an impressive record behind his in hurdles winning a gold medal in 110 meters hurdles – 13 .92 sec with a new National record and new meet record at the 36th junior National Athletics Championship, Guwahati; a gold medal in 110 meters hurdles with 14 .10 sec with a new meet record at the 2020 Khelo India Youth Games, a silver medal at the 35th Junior National Athletics championship with 14 .00 sec; a gold medal at 31st South zone junior athletics championships 2019 with the time of 14 .2 sec and 4×1 00 relay bronze at the Federation Cup national junior athletics championships in 2019.
There is no doubt that the B.G Degree College, Sattenapalli student is in the best environment to flourish and his attitude looks to be up there with the best, eager as ever to learn and to a win medal for the country at the highest level.
We all can’t hide the fact that this lad is poised to stand tall among the greats in the future.
With the greatest of respect, hurdles is not a sport that most youngsters grow up hoping to represent their country in. How did you get involved?
From as far back as I can remember I have loved sports. Growing up, my dad was a sports enthusiast who was always actively involved in whatever sport or extracurricular activities I were involved in. The passion to practice, work hard and be competitive is a priceless gift that my dad gave me. But most importantly, he has always believed in me.
My dad’s enthusiasm and passion for sports carried over to me. He always encouraged me to be involved in an individual sports event in which the levels of self-reliance, discipline, and winning or losing is entirely up to you, and every competition is a chance to beat your personal best. My father had always preached that competition was always more important than results.
When did you discover your talent for hurdles?
Through much of my childhood I was dabbling in all of the sport and one day my coach saw me doing hurdles and told me that I can be a good hurdler and ergo hurdles were not a strange addition to life, but a part of it. He lit in me a fire for athletics, especially hurdles, which has never gone out.
You became the new Indian U- 20 national record holder in 110meter hurdles with 13 .92s earlier this month – what is your next personal goal?
I have been having some quality sessions focusing on putting the whole process together under the watchful eye of head of track-and-field at JSW's Inspire Institute of Sport (IIS) Antony Yaich.
I really want a personal best jump or beyond in the up-coming south zone competition and I want to broke my u-20 National record.
Do you remember your first ever race?
My first ever race was in my school when I ran the 60 meters during school sports day.
Who’s favourite hurdler and why?
Orlando Ortega is my favourite hurdler because I like his never give up attitude. Especially in the 2020 Gyulai István Memorial event when he never gave up throughout the race.
What hurdler did you want to model yourself after when you were growing up?
I always wanted to be like Dayron Robles when I was younger. He is fast, explosive and quick that snaps down with force on the other side of the bar. This is a style that I taught throughout much of my career, and it’s the only style that was taught back when I was running competitively.
Studying and doing athletics competitively must have been quite challenging? How did and are you coping
It has always been a struggle to manage both studies and sports. I was not able to attend classes regularly because of training and competitions. Therefore, I used to collect study materials and managed to study with it. Now I am trying to attend online classes from my training centre and am able to manage both quite well.
Every athlete needs some downtime every now and then. What do you do when you’re not training and racing? Do you have other hobbies to take your mind off hurdles?
I love listening to music and watch movies and I also love reading story stories books.
Who have been some of your pioneering supporters/team members over the years and why?
From day one, my parents gave me every opportunity under the sun to follow my dreams and be able to do what I love every day. They are both as passionate about sport as I am which makes both training and home life a lot of fun. The amount of time, effort and money my parents have sacrificed over the years to allow myself to train, travel and compete definitely doesn’t go unnoticed. Over the years I have realized how important support is when training and competing at an elite level. I am extremely fortunate to be surrounded by such an incredible support network
What do you feel are your main strength in hurdles?
One of my main strengths are starting from the blocks and my speed.
Who is your coach and where do you train? And what does a typical training week look like for you?
My coach is Mr Antony Yaich from France and I train at Inspire Institute of Sports Bellary Karnataka. I train one session a day and 6 sessions a week and we have a day-off on Saturdays. Even though, I train one session a day, it will be very hard as it involves both track and gym training and if we get any injury or discomfort, we will have a rehabilitation session in the afternoon.
How do you prepare yourself for major competitions?
I do care a lot about my body trying to prevent any kind of injury and I focus more on my hurdling technique.
What are your most memorable moments from your events? Any ones that stand out that you remember like they were yesterday?
It is hard to narrow it down to one because I am such a driven and goal-oriented person. I would have to say that in 2019 winning my junior nationals silver medal and my father who watched me run was very happy and emotional watching him tearing with happiness is the most memorable moment yet. It was the moment where I understood I was capable of chasing and fulfilling my national record dream, which was very special.
We know that hurdler are always trying to improve. What are some things you are presently working on?
I am currently working on bettering my hurdling technique which can help me improve in big margin. I have had a strong emphasis on sprint work, and increasing runway speed, and tidying up my penultimate step, which ultimately is going to help me jump even further than before. I am extremely eager to see it come together in the coming years.
Do you think you could be the one to break the senior record of 13 .48 s in the future?
What are a few goals that you have set in the coming years? What about personal goals you hope to achieve in the long- term?
I want to break my U-20 National record in the upcoming South zone compaction at Calicut. In future, I want to represent India at international events such as Asian Games and Olympics and also win medals in those competitions.
If you could hurdle with any celebrity, who would that be and why?
Orlando Ortega because I want to experience competing with athletes of that calibre.
What are your favourite and least favourite training sessions?
Hill training is my favourite training session and gym training is my least favourite.
One fellow Indian hurdler of your age you admire?
I get inspired by Tejas with whom I also train with because of his good hurdle technique.