Dharun Ayyasamy - Kho-kho's loss is athletics' gain

The Tamil Nadu athlete, who bagged the silver in 400m in the Asian Games, switched from kho-kho to athletics in school at the behest of his coach.

A jubilant Dharun Ayyasamy on the podium after clinching silver in the men's 400m event at the 18th Asian Games.   -  AFP

Tamil Nadu's Dharun Ayyasamy rewrote the national record books when he clocked 48.96 seconds in the men's 400m hurdles event to bag the silver medal at the Asian Games in Jakarta. Dharun improved his own national mark of 49.45 seconds set at the 22nd Federation Cup at Patiala this year. 

His hometown Tirupur erupted in joy after his feat. His personal coach J. Alagesan was over the moon on his ward's performance. "This is what we all have been waiting for," Alagesan said. 

Dharun's athletics journey commenced in 2012. It was Alagesan who wanted Dharun to make a switch from kho-kho to athletics when the athlete joined his school in Tirupur. "He was finding coordinating in a team game tough. Also, he used to participate in athletics, like the 200m and 400m events. He had a rhythm to his run. His stamina and speed were good and that was when I persuaded him to join athletics. Fortunately, he agreed and there has been no looking back since then," his coach explained. 

Dharun lost his father when he was eight and his mother, a private school teacher, struggled to make ends meet with a meagre salary. His sister, a volleyball player, is Dharun's biggest critic and friend. Tough circumstances never deterred him, and he kept improving on the track. "He is always confident, takes losses in his stride and never gets bogged down. Once he started making a mark in the national circuit, he gained confidence. When he went to Mangalore University, a stipend made his training needs affordable and state government awards (after his performance in the South Asian Games) helped him a lot too," Alagesan added. 

Before Monday's final, Dharun and Alagesan had a quick chat. "He sounded confident of a medal. He knew he had a medal in his kitty if he clocked less than 49.2. I reminded him of his national record of 49.4 and gave him confidence that it wasn't impossible," the athlete's mentor and coach said. 

"His biggest threats were athletes from Japan and Qatar and I told him to forget about the rest and concentrate on his race," Alagesan said.  Incidentally, Dharun settled for silver behind Abderrahman Samba from Qatar (47.66) but pipped Japan's Takatoshi Abe (49.12).