Gomathi Marimuthu's tale of struggle to athletics glory

The gold medal at the Doha Asian Athletics Championships has now made Gomathi Marimuthu one of the shining stars of Indian athletics.

Gomathi Marimuthu during her felicitation ceremony at the Velammal Vidyalaya in Chennai.   -  M. VEDHAN

In a heartwarming tale of sheer hard work prevailing over seemingly insurmountable odds, Gomathi Marimuthu has captured everyone's imagination. The gold medal at the Doha Asian Athletics Championships has now made her one of the shining star of Indian athletics.

Gomathi returned to the country on Friday, to an overwhelming show of support and media attention as she made her way to the Velammal Vidyalaya for her felicitation ceremony. Her journey to her maiden gold medal at the age of 30 has been an arduous one.

WATCH| Gomathi Marimuthu gets rousing welcome on return to India

“I had no sponsor or support. Whatever I did, it’s because of my sheer perseverance and talent,” said Gomathi, who was born in the village of Mudikandam, Tiruchy. “I don't want other athletes to struggle as I have. I know the difficulties I went through to achieve this. People have quit the sport because of those hurdles, so I don't want them to do that. I will be happy if they get the help they need.”

The year 2016 was a tumultuous one for Gomathi having lost both her father Marimuthu and coach Gandhi to illness. Then, a groin injury kept her out of the sport for the best part of two years. She considered hanging up her boots prematurely, but the timely intervention of her friend Francis Mary who insisted that she continued pursuing her passion.

Chasing a dream

“Everyone in my village said that I should quit and move on from the sport. I would have if it weren’t for akka (Mary), who asked me not to give up,” said Gomathi.

She clocked a personal best time of 2:02:70s in Doha, bettering her previous best of 2:03:21 that she had achieved at the Federation Cup in Patiala earlier this year. Gomathi feels that she would have recorded a better time if it weren’t for those years lost due to injury and the lack of support.

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“There were times I used to struggle without food and not get enough practice. If I hadn't lost those two years, I could have achieved a better time,” she said.

She broke down in tears recounting the painful times her father endured making sure she stayed on course with her dream and wished if he was there to see her accomplishment.

Gomathi Marimuthu after clinching the gold medal in 800m at Asian Athletics Championships.   -  AP Photo

 

“When I was training, my dad suffered an injury on his leg which restricted his mobility. My dad used to wake me up every day at 4 a.m. in the morning so that I could go for training. He did everything to make sure I got the best possible amenities.

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“When he was sick and admitted to the hospital, we didn’t have enough money for food. Even then, he wanted me to pursue my career in athletics, so he used to eat the food which was kept for our cows. I couldn't bear it and I could never forget that. If my father was alive right now, I would have seen him as my God,” she said.

Gomathi wishes she now gets the backing from the ‘Tamil Nadu and Indian’ government for her to qualify for the Olympics. “I have qualified for the World Championships in Qatar. If I perform well in Qatar I can take that forward to the Diamond League.”