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Perseverance pays off

MAKING A MARK: S. Anthonyammal. Photo: R. Ashok  

The dusty Yadava College ground resembled a battleground, as S. Anthonyammal thwarted her rivals’ dreams of scoring points in a kabaddi match. With elimination of each rival member, the noise of clapping hands soared. It was only a practice match but Anthonyammal displayed the zeal to outwit her opponents. But her real feat is different.

Anthonyammal played in the Indian Kabaddi team that won gold medal at the 5th Asian Beach Games 2016 in Da Nang, Vietnam. Fresh from victory, the young girl wasted no time and was back in business of practising harder. “Her dedication is the key to her success,” says her Kabaddi coach R. Janardhanan.

Born to farm labourers in Solai Pandiapuram near Thirukoviloor, Anthonyammal was lucky enough to have a kabaddi player in her father. “My father Savarimuthu was very keen to put me into the game and my mother Ritu Mary never objected. In my free time, I always assist my father in farm work,” she says.

The encouragement she got from her family helped her to achieve. She was part of the team that won medals in school games. And it was in one such game that Janardhanan got the whiff of her talent and brought her to Madurai. It was not easy to convince her parents initially but once they agreed to allow the girl to hone her skills under Janardhanan’s coaching, they never interfered again. “When she came to me she was all raw power. I helped her to focus and she is already showing big results,” he says.

Anthonyammal joined Yadava College in B.A. Tamil and soon captained victorious Madurai Kamaraj University team in the Association of India Universities South Zone Kabaddi Championship. Sensing opportunities, her coach diverted her to beach kabadi and she instantly reaped rich dividends. Her creditable performance got her a berth in the State team that secured the third position in the National Kabaddi Championship in Visakhapatnam. This led her to national selection trials in Gandhinagar and after two rounds of strenuous trials, she found herself in the six-member Indian team for beach kabaddi. The college girl was the youngest in the team while the rest were all professionals.

Competing against much stronger rivals, Anthonyammal came out unscathed because of her skills in the game, says her coach. “Beach kabaddi is tricky. Playing kabaddi on the normal surface is easy. She practised on sand only for few months to get accustomed to the game. You need different set of skill sets,” he points out.

Always early to the ground for practice, Anthonyammal, who is now pursuing II M.A.Tamil, says since she and her coach live nowhere near the seashore, they had to buy the sand for practice.

Most state and national level kabaddi matches are played in indoor stadiums under controlled environment where as beach kabaddi is played on the seashore where humidity levels are high and wind can also be a big factor. “To comprehend playing conditions, I also practised on the Marina Beach,” she says.

Adept in defence skills, she played left corner position and switched to right corner depending upon the requirement of the team. “She is very accurate in clasping rivals’ ankles and is a nightmare for her rivals,” says Janardhanan.

She was fondly called as an ankle expert in the Indian team and had bailed out the team from difficult positions on several occasions. “In the first round, we faced strong South Korean team. At half time we were down by two points. After the interval, we were in a position to prove our mettle. I single-handedly won four crucial points for the team by eliminating four rival raiders. Finally our team won with a lead of four points,” she beams.

Now that she has etched her name in the higher echelons of Kabaddi, she wants to be part of the national team to take part in the world women’s kabaddi. “I am also planning to play pro kabaddi next season,” she says.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2021 4:54:18 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/Perseverance-pays-off/article16071171.ece

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