Five months ago, as he lay at Patiala's Columbia Asia Hospital, T. Santhosh Kumar did not realise that the next few months would undo all the hard work he had done in the previous four years. He was down with COVID, along with some 15 athletes, and had to be in hospital for two weeks.
“I've had many sleepless nights thinking how I had missed a golden chance of going to the Olympics. COVID took it all away. There were athletes who were going to Tokyo without even competing in any other international meet earlier. That was hard to digest,” Santhosh, who was fifth in the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games, told Sportstar after winning the 400m hurdles gold at the 60th National Open athletics championships at the Nehru Stadium here on Saturday.
“Still, I'm happy I'm alive because I've seen COVID take away many lives.”
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Santhosh would not have even made it to Warangal for the Armyman had finished sixth in the recent Services meet.
“An hour's rain before the hurdles upset everything. Thankfully, I got an entry through Tamil Nadu with our secretary Latha helping me gain an entry as I had the qualification time to compete here,” said the 23-year-old from Madurai.
Santhosh beat Services champion Dhaval Utekar on the way to gold for a double as he had helped Tamil Nadu to the mixed relay gold on Friday. “I'm confident of coming back strongly in time for next year's Asian Games in the hurdles and relays,” he said.
R. Vithya Ramaraj, who had missed the Olympics after being hit by the coronavirus at the camp, won the women's 400m hurdles in a personal best 58.47s for her third gold here.
Services' S. Siva, the national record holder (5.30m), broke the meet record as he won the pole vault with 5.12m.
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“I was close to the national record in the Services meet (5.20m) and I had something like 5.40m on my mind but I was down with fever the last few days,” explained Siva.
Punjab's Harmilan Bains finished with a middle distance double after breaking away from Delhi's Chanda in the last corner in the women's 800m while Karnataka's B. Aishwarya completed a jumps double with her triple jump triumph in a personal best 13.55m which bettered her previous best by 26cms. And Services swept the men's 800m with Mohammed Afsal finishing on top of the pack.
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