By Surbhi Gogia
The world of track and field may lose a legend once sprinter Usain Bolt decides to join soccer, but Canada has already got its female version of the sprinting star. Meet Jasneet Nijjar, the 17-year-old Queen Elizabeth Secondary school student, who has already taken the world of Canadian junior sprinting by a storm.
Jasneet last spring achieved a rare success during B.C. High School Track and Field Championships in Langley when she won the rare triple-gold in the girls 100-, 200- and 400-metre races. Her coach Jessie Dosanjh of Universal Athletics Club, says it was a proud moment since only a couple of girls had achieved that kind of feet in the last 50 years. For over a span of about an hour, Jasneet won the 100m sprint (12.17 seconds), and then the 400m (55.71 seconds) and then won gold in 200m the following day. The ability to bring both the pure speed and acceleration needed for the 100m, as well as the endurance required for the 400m is what makes the triple win so tough.
“I was running in the junior category before the championships. My coach and I decided to run in the senior category during the championship. We were taking a huge risk. But it was worth it since I won in all the three races,” says Jasneet. Getting selected in such championships is a difficult and long process in itself. “We run at the Surrey district level first. They take top 8. Then those top 8 compete at the Fraser Valley level where athletes from all Lower Mainland except North and the Island participate. And if you get selected then you get a chance to go to the BC level,” she says.
After proving her metal the provincial level, Jasneet’s aim is to compete at the Olympics. She has set her eyes on the 2024 Olympics. To get the taste of the Olympics, she was also selected as part of the athletic team chosen to represent Canada at the 2018 Summer Youth Olympic games held in Argentina in October.
Jasneet was the only one to run in the 400m race at the game representing both men and female category. Although she could not end up in the first three spots, her performance was very much noticed. It was the first international sprinting event she ever participated. “Stage I of the race was cold and stormy. Stage 2 was good. I went there just to run without setting any award-winning goals in my mind. I wanted to just enjoy the experience of running with the diverse, well-rounded and international athletic community. And honestly it was fantastic,” says Jasneet, who just came back from the games and is all set to start training for the summer Olympics.
In so far as her training for the Olympics is concerned, she says there is immense potential in Canada, but as compared to the US, we have lesser resources and funding for track and field, unlike other bigger sports. Jasneet’s plans are to keep up with the training at her club and then take higher studies in the US to get more exposure. There are greater opportunities in States. They offer lot scholarships. Plus I would be competing with a much diverse athletic community in the US. My target is to represent Canada in 2024 Olympics,” she says.
She comes from an immigrant family from Punjab with the father working in a private mill and mother being a home-maker. Surprisingly there is no lineage of runners in the previous generation. However, her elder sister and other 2 siblings including her have made running their passion and a career. “We were introduced to track and field through a family friend. My eldest sister was the first one. She started picking up. Then slowly all the other siblings were introduced. I started at the age of 8 when I was at Cindrich Elementary in Newton. I joined Universal Athletics Club with coach Jessie and have been with them ever since,” she says.
Jasneet follows a strict schedule that starts at 5 Am in the morning. “It’s hard obviously especially in high school since we are running for 6 hours daily. I wake up at 5. Go to practice at 6. I am at the field till 7.30. I come home around 8 and get ready for school. I am at school till 2.45. Then another hour of practice. I am back at 5. It is at that time I catch up with my homework.”
Jasneet observes that it is hard to balance studies with training. But she says it is much harder to study without the day of training. “If there is a day when I miss my training, it effects me. I feel I am missing something. For me to train is as important to even excel in my studies.”
Jasneet is of the view that she is at that time of her life where she could have been distracted by many different things. But it is her sprinting that gives her an aim and anchor in the life.
Like every successful sportsperson, Jasneet is of the view that following a sport should become part of a lifestyle for everyone. According to her sports gives a target and goals in life. She says “Especially at a time when we are seeing so many South Asian youth getting into drugs and gang violence. It is important for parents to put their kids into sports at a young age. It could be anything — hockey, soccer, baseball, basketball.”
“Not only it gives you sports also makes you competitive.” Her advice to all the young people out there is — don’t listen to anyone who says you are not capable. If you want something really bad you will get it with patience and hard work.”