Phadeppa Dareppa Chaugule Belgaum’s Olympic hero

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Phadeppa (Pavananjey) Dareppa Chaugule was India’s first Olympic marathon runner. He represented India in the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium and finished 19th with a timing of 2 hours 50 minutes 45.2 seconds. He hails from the town of Belgaum (Now Belagavi) in Karnataka.

P.D.Chaugule participated in the Marathon at the 1920 Antwerp, Belgium Olympics on 22nd August and finished 19th. It was just one run for him but a great milestone for India!
He was born in 1902 into a Jain farmer family from Sheri Galli. He used to practice for the marathon by running barefooted from Belgaum to Khanapur.   He expired in 1952.

BIPINCHANDRA CHAUGULE, has written a wonderful article Centenary year of India’s Olympic Games debut in the Asian Age.

Some excerpts from the same –

P. D. Chaugule of Belagavi (then Belgaum) for 10,000 metres run and marathon along with Shinde of Kolhapur for bantamweight freestyle wrestling, Kumar Navale of Mumbai (then Bombay) for featherweight freestyle wrestling, Purna Chandra Bannerjee of Kolkata (then Calcutta) for short races, Sadashiv Datar of Satara and H. D. Kaikadi of Hubli for marathon.

Chaugule was special because from an early age he used to participate in running tournaments ranging from one mile to cross-country and Marathon and had won several of them at various levels. In 1919 at 17 years of age, he had won 27 miles cross-country with an unofficial world record.

The contingent sailed to London from Bombay Port on 5th June 1920 in British RMS Mantua and the ship reached London on 22nd June.

Indians excelled in almost every event. Especially, P.D.Chaugule caught everyone’s eye with his lightening speed. But he had to face some racism there of getting beaten up and Soda water bottles being thrown at while competing. He somehow managed to sustain that.

This is a rare photo of the first Olympic team of India. P.D.Chaugule is sitting on the right!

American news-papers had bold headlines such as ‘Hindoo Looms as Dark horse at Olympic Marathon, our athletes should keep an eye on Chaugule in Antwerp’.

Chaugule entered the qualifying heat of 10,000 and was running comfortably when around the third kilometer, a spectator tried to shoot him with a pistol but missed and Chaugule had to drop out. He was dejected but the marathon was just after three days. His friends managed to prepare him for the grand event.

Phadeppa-Dareppa-ChauguleThe day of the marathon, August 22, 1920, dawned. Scheduled at 4.15 pm, it was to begin and finish at Beerschot stadium. The distance this time was 42.750 kms, more by 545 metres that usual. Wearing shoes, Chaugule and Datar joined the group of 48 acclaimed runners. Kaikadi didn’t show up. The race began but Datar dropped out at an early stage.

Chaugule continued with his famous rhythm undeterred as he always was. Till about 15 kilometres he was doing well. By then the route had turned back to the stadium. He had all the stamina in the world with him and was sure to make it first there.

Phadeppa-Dareppa-ChauguleSuddenly it started drizzling. He had to slow down. But the water entered his shoes and through the bandages to the wounds of bites. That was the final blow of ill fate. The pains increased instantly and he slowed down considerably. Other runners started overtaking him. He somehow managed to keep it going and entered the stadium.

He was 19th to cross the finish line but he became the first Indian to complete an Olympic marathon. He was awarded a diploma of merit along with a few others, for finishing the Marathon within 25 per cent of the winning time.

Even today, P. D. Chaugule’s feat is unparalleled and therefore inspirational.

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