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Will to win

Destiny dealt a blow. Yet he braved all odds to become a champion athlete. Meet R. Saravanan

A FREAK car accident in Bangalore in 1998 snatched the lives of R. Saravanan's parents. Studying in Class IV then, Saravanan, surprisingly, did not seek help from relatives. Nor did they volunteer.But with the help of some good Samaritans, hefound a small job in a hotel in Kuzhlimani (around 20 km from Tiruchi). However that lasted only for a few months as Saravanan, along with his friend, ran away from the hotel. For a brief while, he was engaged as a cleaner in a bus depot at Musiri. Unhappy with the surroundings, he boarded a train to Tiruchi only to be caught by police for ticket-less travel. He was sent to the Government Juvenile Home at Thanjavur. In the four years at the home, Saravanan's fortunes began to change under the watchful eyes of Physical Education Teacher Richard. Saravanan won several medals in sporting events breaking numerous records in the process.

In 2002-2003, he was shifted to the Arasinar Sirappu Illam (Chengleput) for his Standard IX. Here, his supremacy in the 100m, 200m and long jump events came to the fore whenever meets were conducted.

However, it was only after he joined the St. Joseph's College of Engineering Prime Sports Academy early last year did his potential begin to blossom. Chief coach P. Nagaraj, under whose guidance many notable athletes such as A. Amudha, K.N. Priya, Weyne Peppin and Surekha shone, says, "Saravanan is a natural athlete. He only has to practise harder."

The moment of glory finally came in January this year.

He was selected for the National School Games Federation of India competitions in Jalpaiguri, West Bengal. Running like a man possessed, Saravanan became the only athlete from Tamil Nadu to win a gold in athletics (he emerged first in 100m and third in 200m).

Sitting in the stands of the Madras Medical College grounds, he reflects on the path life has taken him through. "All that has happened has happened for the good. Now I'll ensure that none of my friends goes through the ordeals that I underwent." The 17-year-old Standard X student of the Ramakrishna Mission Higher Secondary School (Main), he is full of gratitude for those who have helped him. So much so, he recalls the names of each and every one with their initials. "I have to thank Mr. R. Suresh, Physical Education Teacher of Ramakrishna Mission Higher Secondary School (Main), Mr. S. Ammaiyappan, Head Master, Ramakrishna Mission and Mr. E. Muthusaravanan, Warden, Vivekananda Youth Hostel (Rangarajapuram), where I am given free accommodation and food."

Expecting an appointment order from the Southern Railway, Saravanan is relieved that his days of dependence would soon be over. "But I will continue to help my friends and fulfil the hopes placed on me by my well-wishers," he says.


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