She may be a long distance runner,but Preeja Sreedharan has lived a life riddled with hurdles. Up against the odds since losing her father at an early age,life has thrown various obstacles at the athlete from Kerala. Right from walking 10 kilometres to school in the high ranges of Idukki district to not having enough money to fund her passion,Sreedharans family had seen her suffer through it all. But after watching her stand atop the podium in Guangzhou with a gold medal in 10,000m wrapped around her neck,they shed copius tears of joy.
We were sure that one day she will come home with a medal,we werent expecting it in Guangzhou said Pradeep,Sreedharans brother,who had sacrificed his own education to meet her expenses to become a professional athlete.
Right from her school days,Sreedharan had been a long distance runner. The daily trekking to the government high school at Rajakkad turned out to be her first training for the big league. Due to the transfer of her sports teacher Ranedran to another institution in Thodupuzha,Sreedharan too followed suit,moving out during her high school days. While Sreedharan went on to participate in several state,national and international events,Pradeep dropped out of school to become a carpenter to meet her monetary demands. The Delhi Games shattered her confidence,as she managed to finish just above the last spot in the finals,but the Asian Games gold has changed it all. Honestly,we had no expectations because of her Commonwealth Games. It is a complete surprise to us, Pradeep added.
When the gold medal reaches in Palakkad,where she is employed as a railway clerk,Sreedharan has to wait for the completion of her house to showcase her pride. After her decent run in the Beijing Olympics in 2008 she was part of the last 25 the state government had granted Rs 10 lakh for constructing a new house.
A native of Mullakkanam near Rajakkad in Idukki,the 27-year old athlete lived in a small,electricity-less mud-house with her brother and mother,with nothing more than an asbestos sheet for a roof. But her wages from the sport ensured that she could move with her loved ones to Palakkad where Pradeep watched the race on television.
While many friends and well-wishers also gathered in the Railways quarters,her mother Ramani was missing. For,she had returned to her native village to offer prayers for her daughter to cross the final hurdle. Which Sreedharan successfully did on Sunday.