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Tabitha Philip Maheswaran, who had asked her parents to enroll her to a Tamil medium government school, rather than a private school so her auto-driver father could afford money for her sporting career, now has two gold medals to her name at the Asian Youth Athletics Championships. Born third of four children to Philip Maheswaran, Tabitha was inspired by army movies from a young age and she had decided to enroll herself at the military school in Tanjore, a district in Tamil Nadu. But, Tabitha’s mother advised her to try sports instead of joining the military. The idea seemed pretty exciting for young Tabitha, who had started to participate in several tournaments. She won a national level athletic event in eighth grade, which made her and her parents take up the sports seriously. Coming from a very humble family, Tabitha describes how difficult it is to pursue a sporting career.
Tabitha’s parents always travel with her to lift her morale and they try to provide her with home-made food to prevent her from eating anything outside. With all these, the financial crisis keeps increasing. However, when Tabitha wins any medal, she donates 1/10th of her prize money as a tithe to her Church. After three years of consistent performance in national-level, Tabitha received her first international call and to represent her country at the age of sixteen in one of the biggest continental events. Tabitha used to participate in all the events, but later on her coach insisted her to concentrate only on hurdles and long jump, which she was doing better than any other event. Thus, she was selected for Asian Youth Athletics Championship after her Khelo India’s impressive performance. When Indian senior team returned back with two gold medals from Asian Athletics Championships, 16-year-old Tabitha alone made a similar medal haul from Asian Youth Athletics Championships. Tabitha bagged a gold in the 100 metres hurdles with a personal best time of 13.86s, and a day later, she was back on the podium with another gold, in the long jump event, leaping 5.86m. This is just a beginning for this Tamil Nadu athlete as Tabitha and her parents have set their sight on Olympics. Tabitha’s transition period from junior to senior will be crucial, which she is well aware of.
“Whenever I win a tournament, all I think about prize money and how it can help my parents repay their loan. It’s like you lend money from people to travel to a tournament, once you win, I am glad I can return back to them,” says Tabitha.