I'll be absolutely honest, I was not passionate about sports at the beginning. Maybe you can say that it all happened suddenly for me. I was enjoying my studies and was a pretty focussed student. I scored really well in my 12th board examination, I was pursuing science and scored above 92%, which is pretty good I guess. I had joined the Assumption College at Changanacherry in Kottayam, Kerala. So even after joining college, I wasn’t sure about continuing running as my performance was also not convincing enough for me to continue running. But eventually, my performance improved and I also thought this is just a start! So let me give it a shot. I gave equal importance to both sports and studies. And thankfully both went well; I completed my B.Sc in Mathematics and also in my final year of college, I got a good opportunity in sports, too.
The turning point of career
I have never given a thought seriously about it, but people around me still say my luck favoured for me. But let them say whatever they wish, I know how much dedication I had put into it. I may not have started it with passion, but once I knew that sports is going to be my profession, I started investing good effort on it. Whatever I have achieved is because of my hard work. My performance improved gradually, and I started liking what I was doing. Isn’t it everyone's dream to represent India one day?
About my transition, while I was pursuing my graduation degree, I didn't win any big medals, and it came only in relay events. After completing my degree with good marks, I thought of pursuing higher studies in Mathematics. However, everyone asked me to be patient with my athletics performance, because I had just started and so I thought of giving another shot at it.
So in 2017, the All-India Inter-University Athletics Championships was the turning point in my sports career. I had clocked 53.63s to win silver at the 400m event at the university meet and couldn’t believe it when I was told I would be going to the national camp. Coach Galina Bukharina spotted me there and training under her was a game-changer for me.
The most improved athlete in 2019
Whatever I am today, I will give all its credit to my team – coach, physio, and managements. In all the phase of my life, every coach I worked with - corrected my mistake and improved my performance bit by bit! Now with Galina also it’s the same. I have never dropped my timing, and each year I always improved my PB, and this year has been superb for me, considering my consistency. I clocked sub-53s for the first time in this year. Between June and July, I had bettered my personal best thrice in meets in Poland and the Czech Republic, running my maiden sub-53s time with her 52.58s in Goleniow and then bringing it down to 52.54 and 52.48 in Kladno and Nove Mesto nad Metuji on July 13 and 20. However, as you know my best-ever performance of 52.12s came at the Josef Seckar memorial athletics meet in August.
Milestones set for oneself
I have set a target for myself. At the mixed relay event of the World Championships this year, I individually ran 51.80s. I need to perform well, and win some individual medals in Asian Championships in future and also help the team in the relay. But first, we have prioritised that the women's team should qualify at the Olympics. Winning an Olympic medal is still a big dream. I understand, compared to Jamaica and the USA, we are not there yet. But, we came seventh in the mixed relay, which was pretty decent, considering we had a confusion in selection because of many major players' injury. Also, one important area where we really need to improve our coordination is during batton exchanges. We all have got potential, both women and mixed team. So, we have a realistic chance of reaching the final, considering how difficult it is to reach the finals at the Olympics. If we reach the final, who knows, on a given day we can go and win a medal too.
Batton exchanges - a concern
We do batton exchange practice also, I believe women’s team was good in both Asian Games, Asian Championships, but in Worlds, we had a confusion. When you see at the Asian level, Indian team always up there running in front, so no pressure in exchanging in batton but the same we can’t say at Worlds. For someone like, me who is new to the world stage and also in the mixed event, it is still a unique experience for all of you to receive batton from a man and to run. We do practice technical stuff but to handle pressure and to handle the moments, only by experience we can come to that perfection level.
The bond among the athletes
We got all the facilities, and we are almost a set team, so we share good relationships between the team members. Though we come from different places and cultures, I think we are doing well off-track too. All my colleagues are fun to hang out with. I don’t feel we have much communication gap, mainly because there are a lot of South Indians in the camp.
No stopping unless the dream is met
I don’t see any significant changes needed to be done in this team; I feel like if we give our maximum effort, we can make a difference at the big stage. Whatever our coach asks us to do, we are ready to do. If they feel any strategy change needs to be done, I am up for it. Personally, I can say under Galina's watch, my performance has drastically improved. I can also say all our athletes' performance under Galina has improved. Jabir – hurdles, Anas – 400m, and Poovamma! I think everyone in the camp has done well under Galina. It's our biggest strength. We all know how good a coach she is, and under her tutelage, a team held the world record in the relay. Her knowledge and experience are such strength for us, I would say the major plus is she never puts pressure on us, even if we don’t perform in one race, she is there to say we have the next one!
For an athlete – injuries are her biggest enemies. Whenever I am injured, the pain and being out of sport is my major concern. I have seen people leave sports because of injury and people have even asked me to stop but if you have an aim, I feel like you should leave only after achieving it.
Have to give it back to the family
My father is a farmer; my mom is a homemaker, and my sister is pursuing her degree now. Only because of her I came into the sport. I was very active during my childhood. I was always running and wasn’t thinking about medals, tournament and all. This activeness led me to participate in all tournaments, and I started winning medals. Later, we shifted our house to South Kerala where we found a good coach and my sister got selected in the best school in Kerala because of sports. My mom was also provided with a job as a hostel warden in the school.
Like every other person, my dream is to have my own house, job and I want to take care of my sister. Because of her, I came into sports, so I want to give back something to her. We still stay in a rental house, so having our own house will be a big thing.
My only disappointment is people are not aware of athletics. I don’t think athletes who go to the Olympics or even come close to win a medal at the Olympics get recognised by the public. I went to the World Championships; we qualified for the Olympics, but I don’t know how many people know about it. I don’t think, even in my hometown, they will know me. It is not an easy path for us as like cricketers. We don’t compete for publicity or win medals for fame. But think of people in Tiktok or Musically are famous now but when you work hard day and night for winning medals for the country and not been recognised, it is somewhat sad. We are not looking for fame, but maybe some support from all would motivate us more!