How Revathi raced against the odds to qualify for Tokyo Olympics

Madurai girl overcame personal tragedy, penury

Updated - July 07, 2021 10:13 am IST

Published - July 07, 2021 01:54 am IST - Madurai

Revathi Veeramani

Revathi Veeramani

She used to practise sprinting barefoot because she could not afford shoes. But sheer determination helped V. Revathi of Madurai qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.

At the camp for Olympics-bound athletes in Patiala on Sunday, Ms. Revathi was selected to represent India in the 4 x 400 m mixed relay event. She clocked 53.55 seconds and stood first in the 400 mrun. Her nearest competitor took 54.25 seconds. “It’s a dream come true more for my coach Kannan,” Ms. Revathi told The Hindu from Patiala, where she has been practising for the last two years.

Having lost her parents at a young age, Ms. Revathi and her younger sister were brought up by their maternal grandmother Arammal, a farmhand. Amid the poverty that surrounded them, she ensured that they remained in school all these years even when she had to carry bricks in kilns during droughts. “Our relatives asked my grandma to send us to work so that she could rest at home. But she refused,” Ms. Revathi recalled.

Free training

It was Mr. Kannan, the coach at the Sports Development Authority stadium at Race Course, who identified the natural athlete in Ms. Revathi and trained her. When he offered free training at Race Course, she refused. “I could not afford ₹40 every day to commute by bus between my home and the stadium and declined the offer. But he got me a free seat and hostel accommodation at the nearby Lady Doak College. It was Kannan Sir who dreamt that I could make it to the Olympics, provided I worked hard,” she said.

Mr. Kannan also financially helped the family; he helped her sister get a job in the police department, Ms. Arammal recalled. “But for my coach, I would have ended up working in an unit making springs for motorbikes,” Ms. Revathi said. However, she put her heart and soul into running to prove her relatives wrong, the relatives who did not believe in putting girl children in sports and schools.

When she was at the camp, the Railways offered her a job in August last. Madurai Divisional Manager V.R. Lenin has congratulated her.

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