As a young girl, she was a regular at the State schools athletic meet through five straight years — between 1987 and 1991 — and winning medals in all the championships.

It was indeed this early exposure to competition that helped K.M. Beenamol in later years to establish herself as one of the top athletes in the country before becoming the first athlete from Kerala to win the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna in 2002.

The long, hard grind on the circuit has, needless to say, helped Beenamol to form her opinions on the sport.

And analysing the 56th edition of the State Schools Athletics meet through the last three days, Beenamol remarked indications were that it was high time the sports hostel system in the State was reviewed critically.

“The results returned by specialised sports run by the Kerala State Sports Council and the G.V. Raja Sports School and Sports Division, Kannur, have been quite disappointing.

“And this is not for the first time that this has been happening,” she said.

“Under the given circumstances, I think that we need to look at the functioning of these institutions closely, and take corrective measures.

“Otherwise, it will only drain the coffers of the KSSC, and will serve no purpose to the cause of Kerala athletics.”

Beenamol, now a Sports Officer with the Thiruvananthapuram Division of Southern Railway, also pointed out that the time was ripe to create alternate models to nurture talent.

“Most of all, I think we need to have a programme to ensure proper follow-up training to many talented athletes that we witness in action year after year at these meets,” she said.

“Compared to the competitions at school level, the competitive structure at the university level within our State is quite weak.

“Hence, it is absolutely necessary to draw up a well-defined programme, keeping this in mind.

“And if we are able to do so, I am sure that we will be able to ensure the continued dominance of Kerala at National-level athletics, and help our athletes win at the international level, including the Asian Games, more consistently,” Beenamol said.

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