Guangzhou Asian Games champion Preeja Sreedharan began her journey to glory with her appearances at the Kerala Schools athletics meet way back in 1997 (Aluva) and 1998 (Thrissur).
True, she did not set the tracks ablaze during those appearances, but, Preeja confided that her exposure to competition at the school-level was what helped her transform herself into a champion runner.
“I think the conditions are far better today, on account of meet management and facilities.
“In Aluva, I had to settle for the silver in the girls’ 5000m as there was a lot of confusion among officials after our race was completed. One section thought I had scraped through while another felt it was my rival, we almost finished together, took the tape first.
“I am sure such things do not happen today. Secondly, the facilities too have improved. This is evident in the care officials take to ensure that the meet is held only on synthetic track, which is a boon to the current generation.
“However, I feel the present crop has not been able to make good use of these positive factors. Instead of taking up sport to land a job, they should learn to make sport a way of life. Only then, can Indian athletics survive outside competition and emerge as one of the best in the world.”
Preeja, who got married last month, said she had already begun preparations for the Asian championships to be held in Chennai in July next year. “I hope to move over to Bangalore next month and continue with my preparations,” she said.