Athlete V Revathi, 23, from Madurai district will represent India at the Tokyo Olympics in the mixed relay event. She is among three women from Tamil Nadu taking part in the event in Tokyo next month.
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.
Raising the two girls single-handedly was very difficult said the septuagenarian who became a widow at a young age. “I took up odd jobs. I worked at brick chambers, cleaned the dining area at marriage halls, removed weeds at agricultural fields to earn a meager Rs 100 per day to feed the three of us. The sisters studied in government schools, staying at hostels,” their grandmother shared.
Free training for Revathi
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.
Revathi took interest in athletics during school days and with the motivation of her hostel wardens, she began to practice at Race Course stadium. “I tried my best to stop her from pursuing athletics fearing injuries and worried that there was none to take care of her. But, she had already set her heart on it,” Aarammal laughed.
Revathi’s coach K Kannan (45) who spotted her talent in 2015 when she was in class XII told, “Inspired by coach Ramanathan from Devakottai who had trained many gold medallists in Asian Games and Arjuna award recipient sprinter Ramasamy Gnanasekaran in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I set a goal to send an athlete to Olympics representing the country, when I could not become one.”
Recalling the instance when he first saw Revathi on the track, the coach said, “Revathi who took part in the zonal level athletic meet for school students, was the only athlete to run barefoot. Watching her sprint that day, I found that she had the talent and the spark in her and that she would go places if trained well. However, she was hesitant due to her poor financial background and that her grandmother would not allow her to pursue the sport. In three years, she struck gold in national-level events making me more confident that I could risk anything to push her towards her Olympic debut. In fact, she finished fourth during the Asian Games held in 2019, missing the bronze medal in 100 meters relay only by a few seconds.”
Aarammal shared that it was only with the help and constant motivation by the coach that Revathi joined college through sports quota and even got a job at Madurai in Southern Railways. “I had to borrow to pay Rs 4,000 for hostel mess, that was the only fee collected every year at Lady Doak College. I could not afford to give her a nutritious diet. Everything was taken care of by the coach. He bought Revathi her first pair of shoes, sportswear, arranged for travel during outstation athletic events. I am indebted to him,” she spoke as tears welled up.
Reacting to the young woman’s feat, the grandmother said, “I am no longer scared. I am confident that she would make us proud. Revathi is determined to bring laurels to the country.”