At 85 most people would confine themselves to the four walls of their homes with an occasional visit to the children on their birthdays or wedding anniversaries, the rare appearance in the church, temple or mosque, and frequent trips to the doctor for some ailment or the other.
But not John Devasir, Secretary, Chennai Masters’ Athletic Association, who did India proud by winning a bronze medal in the 80 M hurdles event at the recently concluded XVIII World Masters Athletic Meet in Lahiti, Finland. He raced to the finishing line in 20.48 seconds, winning the third slot by 0.07 seconds.
At a function held to honour this versatile athlete at University Grounds, Chetpet, in Chennai on Saturday, speakers praised Devasir, a retired Superintendent of Police for being an outstanding sportsman since 1997, be it in triple jump, high jump or 80 M hurdles.
Always a gold medalist at the Asian level, he won three gold medals in these, his favourite events in the Asian meet conducted in Chiang Mai, Thailand last year.
M.V.Rajasekhar, coach, Universal Sports Foundation, attributed Devasir’s success to his champion-like attitude like “consistency in training daily, despite vagaries of the weather, the eagerness to learn new things and intelligently put to use what he learnt” whether it was the Nehru Stadium where he trains or YMCA grounds in Nandanam, which provided the basic athletic inputs for nearly eight years under the watchful eyes of R.Natarajan, Director, India Sports Promotion Academy, and Dr. Kannan Pugazhendi, of YMCA College of Physical Education.
‘We should emulate him as a role model in terms of defying age and passion for sports as a life-long activity, he said and pointed out how the senior athlete, a diabetic for decades, was now able to keep the disease at bay.
Krishnakumar, Founder of Venus Sports Club, looking towards a bunch of teenage athletes, said discipline and punctuality were the hallmarks of successful senior athletes like Devasir. and wanted them to follow his example. Referring to training of athletes by coaches, the said the former should ‘think intelligently’ before doing any exercise so that ‘the body does what the mind commands.’ The athletes gathered were lucky to be trained by Rajasekhar, known for producing many champions from Tamil Nadu in the State and national circuits.
The importance of being an athlete in individual events counted higher than being in team events, said Vijayakumar, Director of Physical Education , Loyola College. J.C.James, a retired Madras University coach, said, Devasir was a role model to senior citizens.
Cine artiste Sri Rajini, said it was vital that the coach and the trainee were on the same wavelength, as was the case with Rajasekhar and Devasir. Santosh, a 10,000 metre Tamil Nadu champion of Loyola College said “I haven’t seen a person like Devasir. He was a source of motivation to us said ” S.Radhika, an MBA student from Ethiraj College and national champion in long jump and 100 metres. There was no age limit for participation in sports and such involvement helped people stay healthy, she added.
Replying to the felicitations, Devasir recalled how in his maiden world meet in Brisbane, Australia in 2001, he led the heats but came last in the finals, and was disillusioned initially. However, he never gave up hope and was determined to win one day.
The determination to succeed, made him go the ground daily and train hard, he said. This will power, he added made him search for professionals, to train him in the right way and also learn from his junior counterparts like college students.
It was with this determination, he went to Finland, Devasir said and pointed how warm-ups were very vital “as they prepare the body for what follows”. He was thankful to Balu, a Tamil Nadu police athlete in Lahiti, who, he said, helped him to beat the biting cold in Finland by assisting him to do various kinds of stretches just before his hurdling events. A deeply spiritual person, he believed “God answered his prayers that he win a medal provided it was His will.”