It was a fierce race to the finish line at the NSNIS in Patiala, Punjab on Sunday. The competition was to determine who would join the Indian contingent for the 4x400m mixed relay race at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, and a spirited Revathi Veeramani, a national camper, beat her competition by clocking 53.55 seconds. However, Subha Venkataraman and Dhanalakshmi Sekhar were not too close behind. Based on the outcome of the race, the three women from Tamil Nadu will represent India in the 4x400m relay race at the Tokyo Olympics, which will begin in 20 days.
Though they are formidable athletes, these women have jumped several hurdles in their lives, including poverty, to try and make their mark on a global level. They, along with their families and coaches, spoke to the media ahead of their departure for Tokyo.
The first person to touch the finish line at the qualifying race, Revathi V faced tragedy at a young age. She and her sister lost their parents when they were children, and were raised by their grandmother in Madurai. Their grandmother, who worked as a daily wage worker, struggled to bring them up and placed education over all extra-curricular activities. However, Coach Kannan, who saw Revathi run when she was in school, recognised her talent. Her grandmother said, â€śMy daughter and son-in-law passed away when the two children were a little over five years old. I took them in and educated them. The coach at the school said Revathi was good at running and told us to start coaching for her. Though I initially hesitated, I allowed her to go.â€ť
â€śNow I am very happy that she is selected for the Olympics, and I thank the coach for extending his guidance,â€ť she added.
Tracing Revathi's athletic journey, Coach Kannan of the Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu said, â€śI saw Revathi for the first time when she ran for a zonal-level meet without shoes. When I spoke to the girl, she said she wouldnâ€™t run and that she wanted to study. So I collected her details and spoke to her grandmother. However, her grandmother refused to encourage Revathi in sports.â€ť
â€śI then enrolled her in college through the sports quota and told her to come for training. I was able to find out her talent because my coaches have trained so many sportspersons, and I still seek guidance from my coaches. Once, when my coach Rajan came to visit me in Madurai, he was the one who persuaded me to encourage Revathy for the 400m relay. That is how she started running relays,â€ť he shared.
Revathi has already represented India in the Asian Games held in Doha in 2006, where she was placed fourth. However, she is determined to bag a medal at the Olympics. Apart from training as an athlete, Revathi also works as a Travelling Ticket Examiner (TTE) in the Indian Railways.
Subha Venkataraman started her athletic career at a young age, and moved into a hostel in Chennai to regularise her practice. However, like Revathi, she faced poverty growing up, and still seeks a job to help her meet expenses and realise her dream of winning a medal in the Olympics.
Talking to the media, the athlete said, â€śI won 20 medals in the national championship and I am training in Patiala. Since then, I have won three international medals and participated in seven international events. So I also assure that I will give my best to win a medal in the Olympics.â€ť
However, she added, â€śI tried to get a job but I havenâ€™t gotten one yet. So I request the state government to provide me a job.â€ť
The sprint runner from Trichy shares a similar story to her fellow relay runners, in that she is hopeful of making her country proud with a medal at the Olympics, but is struggling to make ends meet. She also comes from an underprivileged background, but is on her way to the prestigious Olympic Games. She told the media, â€śI thank my coach and family members, since my mother struggled a lot to bring me to this place. So, Iâ€™ll win medals to make Tamil Nadu and India proud.â€ť
She appealed to the Tamil Nadu to provide her with a job. â€śIt takes a minimum of Rs 20,000 for me to participate in competitions. If I get a job, Iâ€™ll take care of my own expenses,â€ť she said.