It was time. The runners had lined up, the started was ready with his gun, the race was about to start. Even as Mercy Kuttan watched her son, preparing to get going and blaze the track, from a distance, she could not really see him. As far as appearances go, her’s was quite deceptive.
Her son, Sujith, was about to run in the most important race of his life yet and she had to hide a terrible news — that of her husband’s untimely death. Mercy’s face did not bear any hint of sadness, in fact, she looked like any normal mother whose son was in a race.
Unaware of his father’s death, the 16-year-old Sujith ran the race of his life, taking just 10.9s to complete the 100m and win the race. Seconds later, event officials told him his father was not well and asked him to rush to the hospital.
On coming to know, Sujith asked his mother, “Why did you hide this from me, why didn’t you tell me Dad was not well? I would have left the track and been with him.”
“You know your Dad’s dream,” she said. “He wanted to see you win a gold in the Olympics. I felt you should do this to fulfil his dream and that I shouldn’t stand in the way.”
Mercy, the current president of the Kerala State Sports Council, was a former track and field athlete. She was the first Indian long jumper to breach the 6m mark and even won Asian Games medals. But later on, she would go on to focus only on sprint.
She met Murali Kuttan, the man she would marry two years later, at a selection camp for the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Murali, a track and field athlete, was a distinguished sportsperson himself having represented India at multiple international meets. They were the first ever Indian athletics couple to have won medals at nationals and the firsts to meet Asian medals. Together, they set up the Mercy Kuttan Athletics Academy in Kochi to train promising young talents.
Through her career, Mercy had to face many adversities, all Indian sportspersons have to. But the day her husband died, she was faced with the toughest challenge of her life.
Imagine being in that position, the person you have loved all your life has just died, but you are not allowed to mourn. Not only that, you can’t even confide in your son and find consolation. Why? Because your late husband insisted on his deathbed not to.
Imagine the kind of character it would take for you to do that. That’s how special Mercy was, or rather, is. That’s how special her love story was.
In sports, you either win or you lose. No matter the result, you have to accept it with grace. Similarly, in life, one has to live with accolades and and with adversities. Mercy, like every athlete from Kerala, has the trait of fighting back and working hard. And that’s why, she has been able to move on with her life.
Now, she focuses on her academy, trains budding athletes — someday, her husband’s dream of an Indian athlete winning an Olympic medal will come true.