International athlete Reeth Abraham has stayed involved in sports, but also enjoys her new-found quiet
In an era when the spotlight was on P.T. Usha, Reeth Abraham carved a niche for herself with outstanding national and international performances. Through a career spanning 16 years, between 1976 and 1992, this national champion in long jump and heptathlon won many laurels in track and field events, including an Arjuna Award in 1997.
Even after she hung up her boots, her passion for sport continued: Reeth began competing at the Masters (senior) level, where she continued to excel. “When I went to the World Masters, it was to experience the competition as a senior athlete, as the hunger for completion was still there.” In the seven World Masters competitions that she participated in, she won a bronze in 2003; in the recent edition in 2011, she won silvers in triple jump and long jump, missing the triple jump gold by two centimetres.
Last Sunday, this Koramangala resident put on her running spikes to compete in the Mumbai Marathon’s half-marathon. “Being a sprinter and jumper, running the half-marathon was a challenge, especially the training part. But I decided to run along with Vandana Rao and Tom Alter, founder-members of Clean Sports India, and we did it.”
Pushing for change
Reeth co-founded Clean Sports India (CSI) with like-minded athletes like Vandana Rao and Ashwini Nachappa. The organisation’s aims include cleaning up Indian sports to make it free of drugs, create a healthy, competitive atmosphere and shaking up a moribund official setup. “It’s been two years since we started the movement. I personally feel that we have made quite an impact, given that we are fighting people who think they are unshakeable. And the fact that the letters written by us to IOC have been recognised and the IOA has been questioned is a pat on the back for CSI. The big challenge for us has been to get former sportspersons to come forward, support us andgive back to sports,” says Reeth.
On the current athletics scene in the country, she says, “Though there is a lot of talent and the facilities have improved, there don’t seem to be many talented youngsters taking to sports seriously. I think the federation and associations are to be blamed for this as they are not taking any trouble to make the sport interesting to lure youngsters.”
Learning to relax
Reeth availed herself of a Voluntary Retirement Scheme from Corporation Bank in May 2012, after serving for 27 years. She now finds a lot more time for herself and her family. She has taken to sports and fitness consulting. “Other than that, I am spending more time with family and friends and learning to relax,” says Reeth.
Reeth moved to Koramangala in 1988, and says the area has changed beyond recognition since then.
“I have lived in Koramangala when there were no proper roads and friends had stopped visiting us because it was too far from the city! I have seen the place grow from nothing to everything. But the sad part is that the rampant commercial activity has made the once-quiet residential area into a busy hub from which you want to move out!”