For the past six years, six days of the week, Philip Maheswaran Thabitha, 16, has been leaving her home in Virugambakkam, Chennai, at 8:30 am only return at 10 pm. Her strict schedule, two lengthy training sessions and a two hours’ bus journey from home, was for one reason: “To win medals for the country.”
At the Asian Youth Athletics Championships, Hong Kong, on Friday the young athlete’s desire was fulfilled when she bagged a gold in the 100 metres hurdles with a personal best time of 13.86s. A day later, on Saturday, she was back on the podium with another gold, now in long jump event, leaping 5.86m.
Back home in Virugambakkam, Thabitha’s family was keenly following the updates on their smartphones. Mother, Mary Kokila, offered thanksgiving prayers all day and answered calls from well-wishers. The gold medal secured, at 4:30 in the evening, her father Maheswaran fixed the headlight of his autorickshaw and left home to earn money for the day. Maheswaran is the only earning member in the family of six. Tabitha has two elder sisters and a younger brother, who is at school.
“When she was in class six, she participated at a school event and bagged medals in all events except for high jump. At that time, my daughter expressed her desire to pursue sports seriously, but I wasn’t sure if I could afford it,” Maheswaran said.
Coach P. Nagarajan came to their aid. He took the youngster on board and she has been training free of cost at the St. Joseph’s Sports Academy on Broadway. She quickly went on to top numerous state meets and national meets. Maheswaran remembers each medal won by her daughter and the distance and timings she has clocked. But acquiring a pair of decent sports shoes is still a hurdle.
“Even now I have to tell my father a month ahead that I would be needing new shoes. Because of the high-intensity training, they don’t last long,” Thabitha explained.
New shoes mean extra hours for Maheswaran plying his auto on the road, and the business has been low ever since the app-based transport companies have hit the market.
“I know how much my parents work hard to ensure I continue doing my sports. We have limited resources but somehow God always provides,” said the 11th standard student, who makes it a point to pray thrice a day. She also donates 1/10th of her prize money as a tithe to her Church.
Thabitha, who says she likes both hurdles and long jump equally, has set her sights on the greatest sporting spectacle on earth, the Olympics. She knows there’s a long way to go — the Hong Kong event after all is her first international event. But she has started on the right foot.
“She’s crazy about sports. Even before she goes to sleep, she talks about it and tells me that she’ll reach the Olympics one day. We don’t have the financial resources to help her reach the next level. But I believe her and even so more in God,” mother Kokila said.
Asian record rewritten
Vishvendra Singh rewrote the Asian Youth Record clocking, 44:09.75s in 10km race walk event on his way to gold in Hong Kong. He broke Sanjay Kumar’s previous record of (45:30.39) by a good margin. At the same event, Paramjeet Singh Bisht bagged the bronze with 44.21.96 on the clock. In the 400m event, Abdul Razak finished on top of the podium with 48.17s. Decathlete Usaid Khan, with 6952 points, also took the spot to take India’s overall gold tally to seven.
Other India results
100m Men Final: 8. Shashikant Veerupakshappa Angadi (10.98s)
400m Girls Final: 4.Priya Mohan (56.46s) and 5.Sandra Ajimon (56.73s)
200m Boys Heats: 5.Shanmuga Srinivas Nalubothu (22.12s) and 7.Shashikant Veerupakshappa Angadi (22.09s) qualified for the finals.
200m Girls Heats: 2.Deepthi Jeevanji (25.32s) and 4.Avantika Santhosh Narale (25.19s) qualified for the finals.
800m Girls Heats: 1.Priscilla Daniel (2:11.55- Championship Record) and 2.Pooja (2:12.25) qualified for the finals.