45.40 seconds. That's the new record set by the 105-year-old Rambai in 100m at the inaugural National Open Masters Athletics Championships - conducted by the Athletics Federation of India - that concluded in Vadodara on Sunday.
"It's a great feeling and I want to race again," said the grand old lady of Indian athletics who clinched a golden double in sprints - the 100m on June 15 and 200m on Sunday in 1 minute, 52.17 seconds. Her next target is to take part in international tournaments. She is planning to apply for a passport.
Asked why she didn't compete at a much younger age, the centurion from Haryana laughed: "Main to taiyar thi. Lekin, mere ko koi mauka hi nahi diya, (I was ready to run but no one gave me a chance)."
Rambai smashes Man Kaur's record
The inspirational Rambai, who was born on January 1, 1917, ran alone in Vadodara as there was no competitor above 85 competing in the meet. She had entered in the Above-100 category. She finished the 100m race to loud cheers from hundreds of spectators - slowing down just before the end and then ambling across the finish line - to break the record of Man Kaur, who became famous after winning the 100m gold at World Masters at the age of 101. Kaur had finished the 100m in 74 seconds.
Rambai became the star of the meet and was busy posing for selfies and photographs with other competitors. Rambai's granddaughter Sharmila Sangwan, who also competed and won medals in Vadodara, said: "I took her to Delhi on June 13 before reaching Vadodara after an RT-PCR test. We are returning home now. I'll drop nani at her village, Kadma, which is around 150km from Delhi, in Charkhi Dadri district."
Debut last year in Varanasi
Sharmila said her entire family was into sports. "A few of our family members serving in the Army have competed in national-level events besides participating in Masters athletic meets. My grandmother first competed last November when I took her to Varanasi. Then she participated in events in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala. So far, she has won more than a dozen medals. She is a natural" Sharmila added: "Before that she only ran in the fields of Kadma. She has begun wearing running shoes and tracksuits only now. Earlier, she used normal shoes."
Rambai couldn't stop laughing when asked about her winning mantra. "I eat churma, dahi and doodh," she said. "A pure vegetarian, nani is particular about having about 250 grams of ghee daily and 500gm of curd. She also drinks 500ml of pure milk twice a day. She likes bajre ki roti (flat bread made of millet) and doesn't eat much rice," Sharmila said.
According to Sharmila, her grandmother's secret to success and strength is her diet and unpolluted atmosphere in the village. "My nani works a lot in the fields. On a normal day she runs 3-4km. Most of the food she eats is grown in the village," she said.