Shiny Wilson: “Despite difficulties, we stuck through”

Sportstar caught up with Shiny Wilson, one of India’s foremost women athletes and runners in the 1980s and 1990s alongside P.T.Usha, and a participant in four Olympic Games. She spoke about the challenges she faced as a professional Indian athlete at the time, in a short chat.

Shiny Wilson with tennis greats Ramesh and Ramanathan Krishnan at the launch of the Sportstar digital edition.   -  The Hindu

How was it like being a sportsperson in your time?

In 1981, before the Asian Games in 1982-83, I was studying in the ninth standard. I was a schoolgirl. It was very difficult for us to go to Patiala: the first camp was in Hyderabad, the second camp was in Patiala. We were small kids; we didn’t know how to go the Patiala camp. With much difficulty, we went to so many places: (from the far off places as) Trivandrum and Cochin, all who were going to national camp faced difficulty at the time.

Nowadays, all go by flights, for national camps and other events. Usha (P.T.Usha), me and others, during my time, used to travel in second class [compartments in trains]. That, though, is ok. But it was too far, from Kerala to Patiala; three days it took us for the journey, getting down at Delhi and then…you can’t go alone, also, at the time, us girls.

The whole year, at the time, we were in the national camp. They didn’t have synthetic tracks in Patiala at the time.

Nowadays, training facilities are better…

Yes. Nowadays they have fitness camps also. Things have improved…

In your time, did you read sports magazines, and in particular, Sportstar?

Yes. I was in ninth standard when I broke the national record for 800 metres, [in the] under-16 category. Then, in the Open nationals, I also represented Kerala, and there, though I was junior, [suitable for] Under-16 [category], in the senior events also I participated. In Sportstar, a colour photo of mine appeared, for the first time.

There were lots of photos which appeared, on many occasions.

How did you keep your focus, motivation going?

I have represented India more than 75 times. I was the first Indian woman to represent my country more than 75 times, in international competitions. More than 80 gold medals and I am the first woman captain of the Olympics team, of the Olympic contingent.

How difficult was the journey, and how did you keep up your training?

All the years we were training. I worked in Food Corporation of India. I joined in 1984; there they had given me freedom to go to the national camps for training. For full time, we will be [involved] in training in Bangalore, and mostly, Patiala. If it was Bangalore, we could go home sometimes, but all year were doing training, not anything else. No festivals, no Onam…more than 18 years [I’ve spent] like this. At the time, there was not much money. During 1982 Asian games also, government had given prize money, but not like now.

But still we did it for 18 years. Nowadays, people are not [persisting for these] many years. Usha and me ran for about 18-20 years, ran for our country. For five times, I was the Asian champion.