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When was the last time you saw a 13-year-old take on and decimate the MTB track, the motocross track, and the racetrack? I, for one, have been in awe of this kid ever since I saw her at the Karnataka State MTB Championship, following which we crossed paths once more at the TVS one-make championship, where she clinched the win in the women’s category, despite being one of the youngest of the lot.

With a fiery urge to prove everyone who doubts her abilities wrong, Nithila Das is nothing short of a prodigy. ‘I wasn’t always like this. I used to cycle for fun, and it was my younger brother who used to bring home all the medals and trophies. One day, a switch flipped, and I thought to myself that I wanted some of the glory for myself too. And from that day onwards, I gave it my all at every event and eventually made a recurring appearance at the podium,’ says Nithila.

Bubbly, enthusiastic, and determined, every time I have seen Nithila, she always seems to have a warm smile on her face. Making friends wherever she goes, I have also witnessed her as she sparked the flame of inspiration in many young girls’ hearts as they looked up to her and saw a realm of possibilities flash in their young minds. To be able to inspire others at such a tender age is something to be celebrated. I also remember her cheering me on while giving me tips to improve my lap time when I participated in the media category of the TVS one-make championship. Unlike what everyone (including myself) would think, Nithila did not start out cycling.

Despite what the natural progression might seem — to start off on non-motorised wheels and slowly graduate to something with an engine — that isn’t necessarily the case. She was in the saddle of an MX bike very early on, after which she slowly ventured into the MTB scene, soon taking it by storm and setting her sights on the 2028 Olympics. Her first tryst with a track motorcycle was also not too long ago, as she very successfully took part in the TVS one-make championship. Prior to this, she was bestowed the title of ‘Fastest girl in India’ by FIM MiniGP, also considered the stepping stone to MotoGP.

‘It is always either slow and steady or guns blazing; there is no in-between. Racing has given me so much joy, and there is a certain feeling about it that I cannot put into words when I am in the saddle. It is much more than an adrenaline rush, and by now, it has become a way of life for me,’ she says. The confidence and positivity radiating from this 13-year old is certainly infectious, and moreover, it is the perfect example of what even a little bit of self-belief and determination can do.

Speaking to Nithila’s father, Nikhil Das, it was made evident that the support system in place for this kid is a pretty well-oiled machine in itself. The path has never been easy, nor has it been straightforward. Multiple challenges have cropped up in front of all of her endeavours, but they have seen it all through as a family. ‘I remember the day when her trainer came up to me and told me that it didn’t look like she would be successful and that maybe she wasn’t meant for the world of racing. Right after that, she went on to clinch podium after podium, and she never looked back from there onwards. It was like she heard that and took it on herself to prove him wrong,’ says Das.

Currently, with the scarce infrastructure to nurture young talent in the discipline of motocross racing, or rather, any racing in general, they are very appreciative of the fact that organisations like the Indian Supercross League have provided kids like Nithila with a solid bit of exposure to international standard competitions. Drawing similarities to a lot of kids from other countries who get a head start at the ages of four and upwards, with access to world-class infrastructure, motorcycles, and, most of all, opportunities to compete against similarly talented peers, there is a lot of undiscovered or even unfulfilled potential in India.

Even now, there is no stable support or framework for the formative years of professionals looking to pursue a career in motorsports. The lack of good local tracks and arenas and a handful of international-standard tracks in India overall affect the performance and interest in the sport at large. This is slowly changing, with brands recognising local talent and supporting them. The past few years have seen a massive increase in interest, both from the audience, participants, and stakeholders. For young and upcoming talent like Nithila, this is very promising news. Proactive work towards building training centres for young talent is also crucial in ensuring that talent is recognised and nurtured. Spending a day at BigRock, we got to see Nithila in her element as she put in a few practice laps on the MX track with her little brother in tow. The sibling rivalry was spilling onto the track as their father looked on, coaching them as well as recording their lap times. Nikhil himself is an avid motoring enthusiast and has been especially supportive of his children’s talent. As it has been expressed time and again, behind any successful person, there are always a handful of pivotal roles played by family that have been crucial to their stories.

Looking at the way this young girl carries herself, we can be pretty sure that she is going places. Hopefully, we will soon see her representing our country on a global stage in the coming years. While she looks into the future, soon to join the ranks of the many successful Indian sportspersons, we must take it upon ourselves to see to it that the younger generation is provided with the opportunities needed to shine, a present that inspires and nurtures tomorrow.