Older athletes gear up for international sports meet in November

The Jawaharlal Nehru stadium is colourful with children in shorts and tees diligently following instructions from their coaches. On the eastern corner of the stadium, a small group of older people, also in shorts/track suits and tees, is busy practising.

They are members of the Chennai Masters Athletic Federation and have been participating in national and international athletic meets for several decades.

The older athletes, some of them over the age of 60, come twice or thrice a week to practise at the stadium. John Devasirvatham, 88, and Daisy Victor, 80, are inspiration for the younger athletes among the veterans.

The senior citizens practise without a break and are proud of their achievements. Conversation among the senior athletes includes lengthy discussions on achievements of fellow athletes, athletic abilities and ways of improving their performance.

M.V. Rajasekhar enjoys coaching the older athletes. “Unlike youngsters, they are regular and winning is not the ultimate goal for them. They want to remain healthy and fit. Most of them are competing with themselves and trying to better their own achievements,” he says.

Mr. Devasirvatham, who began participating in active sports after retirement, has a buddy in 77-year-old S. Muthukumaraswamy, a tennis player and swimmer.

“As a boy I would jump off a train track into the Cauvery in Tiruchi. And I continued to swim after coming to Madras,” Mr. Muthukumaraswamy says. He coaxed Mr. Devasirvatham into taking up swimming.

T.N. Nithyananda Rahavan at 57, is a new entrant to sports. “I am regularly irregular,” declares the self-employed businessman, who owns a small scale unit in Ambattur industrial estate. So did he join the group to get back in shape and keep away ailments? “I just like being here with all of them,” he says.

Ms. Victor regularly runs several laps and is a veteran in the 100 m, 200 m and triple jump events. On Friday, the diminutive woman carried on with her stretches even while the others relaxed. She continued with her practise long after others had left for home.

“I live in Madhavaram and cannot make it to the stadium every day. I want to practise the triple jump and do a lap of 200 m before leaving,” she says. She hopes to win a gold in the international veterans' athletic meet to be held in November. She has won 45 medals in national and international events so far.

On Friday, the senior athletes signed the affidavit confirming their participation in the international meet to be held in November. “By June more of us will be actively practising. We are all very excited. It is like a school sports meet,” says T. Rukmini Devi, who is training in pole vault.

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