“My father ate the food kept for cattle in order to provide me with decent food so that I can train for athletics,” said a tearful Gomathi Marimuthu at a press meet on Friday in Chennai.
India’s golden woman Gomathi Marimuthu recalled her struggles to reach the pinnacle of success in the 800-metres track event at the recently concluded Asian Athletic Championships in Doha, Qatar. In a press meet organized by the Velammal School in Chennai after a felicitation function for the sportswoman, 30-year-old Gomathi shared her journey so far and the road ahead.
Hardwork bore her fruits
Speaking to reporters, Gomathi says she was confident about winning a gold medal despite not getting help from the Indian government. “I was confident about winning a medal and had practiced well. I was not part of the camp for a month and trained alone. Government of India did not help me and I got ready in my own money,” she said adding that Indian coach Bhatia helped her out with workout schedule over the phone.
Recalling her experience at the Asian Athletic Championships in Doha, Gomathi noted that it has been a difficult period in the run up to the meet. “If government of Tamil Nadu helps me, I will train hard and try and win an Olympics medal. There is still one year for the event. Since this event was in a short period and I was recovering from an injury, I couldn’t clock my best timing in the race.”
Not one to mince words, Gomathi said that she does not want anybody to suffer like she did during her training period. “I had to fight for my rights at every step. I have seen many athletes give up because they did not have the help or the resources needed to prepare. I would be happy if government helps them,” she pointed out.
She also shared that many Tamils living in Doha have come forward to help her out financially and that she is considering accepting their help.
“Now government of Tamil Nadu has come forward to help me. The DMK and the government of India have also offered to help me,” she adds.
Speaking about how she had always loved representing Tamil Nadu in athletic meets, Gomathi said that she used to tell small lies to those who pointed out that she was supposed to represent Karnataka in events, since she is employed in the Income Tax Department in Bengaluru. “I used to tell small lies to my seniors at office, something like I didn’t get entry, this and that. I feel happy to get the support of all the people in Tamil Nadu,” Gomathi says with a smile.
Her father’s sacrifices
If there was one person that Gomathi truly misses at this point in her career, it is her father, Marimuthu, who passed away a few years ago. She fondly remembered the sacrifices he made to enable her train well for competitions.
“My father was not able to walk when I was training for the championship. We don’t have bus or light facilities in my village. So to catch the bus at 4.30, my father used to wake me up at 4am and help me with household work if my mother is not well. I miss him,” she says.
Remembering one particular incident which is still etched in the memory of her father, Gomathi said, “When my father was not well and admitted in the hospital, he ate the food kept for cattle just because he wanted to provide food for me for sports training I still cannot accept or forget it. If he was alive now, I would have considered him as my God," she adds, breaking into tears.
“He used to tell me that I have chances to win the gold. I was in the second position till the last 50 metres (in the Asian championships). In the last 50 metres, I raced ahead and was able to win the gold, which was possible only through my hard work. I was so happy to know that I had finished first. More so when I heard that I was the first medal for India in the championship,” she recalls.
Her performance in the Asian Athletic meet was not only medal-winning, but also her personal best, she states. “In my age, it is not easy to clock a best timing. But I did and I am happy. If I work harder, I can do better. My target is to clock a record timing in the upcoming World Championship. If I perform well in this World Championships, there are chances that I might win medal in Olympics,” she added.