Ayyasamy Dharun exceeded his own expectations by winning the 400m hurdles with a national record-breaking timing of 49.45s on the final day of the Federation Cup in Patiala. Dharun, who specialises in 400m, also bettered the Athletics Federation of India’s Commonwealth Games guideline on his way to the gold medal. Santhosh Kumar (50.14s) and Ramachandran M (51.61s) were the other two runners on the podium.
The 21-year-old, who hails from Tirupur district of Tamil Nadu, rewrote the 11-year-old record of 49.51s set by Joseph Abraham. Dharun wasn’t expecting such a result, especially after recovering from a bout of typhoid just weeks back. He was bedridden for five days and was taken care of by his fellow national campers whom he prefers to call family.
“I don’t know how it happened. I wasn’t taking much load on myself and was trying to run casually but ended up breaking a record. I am really pleased,” said Dharun.
Dharun was a kho-kho player and later switched to track events. It’s only been a couple of years since he started taking hurdles seriously with his main focus always being the 400m and 4×400 relay events.
Dharun lost his father to tuberculosis when he was in class four. His mother is a school teacher, while his sister is a budding volleyball player.
When Dharun started pursuing athletics seriously, he was fortunate to find financial support from his relatives.
Dharun, who was also part of the relay team that participated in the Rio Games, joined the national camp in 2013. He trained for almost three years under coach Mohammed Kunhi, who is no longer part of the national set-up.
Dharun’s meeting with his former coach after Thursday’s race was an emotional affair. A few tears were followed by a warm hug and the customary exchange of race information.
“He is an extremely talented boy. He works really hard and is one of the most dedicated students I had. He’s got natural speed and it’s actually his willpower that sets him apart,” coach Kunhi said of his former ward, who is also the 2016 South Asian Games champion.
Dharun is a soft-spoken athlete and is very popular among the other campers due to his amiable nature. But the runner prefers to keep his circle of friends to as few as possible.
“I am a boring person. I don’t like to hang out with people or go to the movies. I only have a handful of friends, rest are people who get in touch only when they have some favour to ask. The only time I go out is when a senior athlete coaxes me to. Instead, I prefer to stay in my hostel room and play games on my phone,” the Candy Crush addict said.
The second-year Alvas College of Arts student currently trains under Russian-American coach Galina Bukharina at the national camp in Patiala. The runner stays put in Patiala so his training is not disrupted. He visits home just once in five months.
“I know my mother misses me a lot but she understands my situation. I was just talking to her and she was really happy,” he says.
Dharun hasn’t set any unrealistic targets at the Commonwealth Games where he would have to run under the 49s mark to stand a chance to win a medal. “I will be aiming to improve my personal best. My ultimate goal will however be the Asian Games where I will try for a medal,” he said.
If we go by the results of the 2014 Asiad, Dharun stands a very good chance of finishing on the podium.
His 49.45 second run would have earned him a gold ahead of Ali Khamis who recorded 49.71s for the top spot.
Arpinder meets guidelines
Triple jumper Arpinder Singh was just able to cross the AFI mark in his fifth attempt, with a jump of 16.61m just a centimetre better than the guideline. Arpinder had won the bronze at the Glasgow meet with a jump of 16.63m. Renjith Maheshwari’s hopes of qualifying for the CWG ended after he lost his footing in the fifth attempt, dislocating his finger and injuring his knee. Renjith finished second with a best jump of 16.51m and Arivuselvam third with 16.49m. The Athletics Federation of India will declared the team on Friday and India has 37 quota placed for the CWG.