The ‘appa’ who changed Lakshmanan’s life

Just when his life appeared to be in tatters with the death of his father, Govindan Lakshmanan found a helping hand. S. Loganathan, a club coach who had seen him running in school, thought the youngster looked promising.

G. Lakshmanan celebrates after winning the men’s 5,000m gold in the Asian Athletics Championship in Bhubaneswar.   -  Biswaranjan Rout

Just when his life appeared to be in tatters with the death of his father, Govindan Lakshmanan found a helping hand. S. Loganathan, a club coach who had seen him running in school, thought the youngster looked promising. He took Lakshmanan, who was around 15 then, to his home in Pudukottai and brought him up as his own son.

“I call him appa (dad), I stayed there for more than 10 years, even now whenever I go to Pudukottai, I stay there,” said Lakshmanan, the lone double gold medallist at the Asian Athletics Championship in Bhubaneswar, in a chat with Sportstar.

“And L. Suriya (Loganathan’s daughter) is my little sister,” said the 27-year-old, the son of farmer from Sokkurani village in Pudukottai, Tamil Nadu, who now trains at the Army Sports Institute in Pune.

Lakshmanan and Suriya began running with around 60 youngsters at Pudukottai’s Kavinadi Sports Club, where Loganathan coached. And with the youngster showing promise, the club president P.V.R. Sekharan began supporting him too.

All the effort bore fruit, for Lakshmanan went on to create history, becoming the country’s first athlete to win a 5000-10,000m double at the Asians while Suriya was an identical fourth in both the events in the women’s section.

MISSED RIO BY 12 SECS

Two years ago, though he won the 10,000m silver and 5000m bronze, the Wuhan Asians turned out to be a bit of a disappointment as Lakshmanan missed the Rio Olympics qualification standard by 12 seconds while clocking a personal best 13:36.62s in the shorter event.

This time, though the timings were a lot slower (14:54.48 in 5000 and 29:55.87 in 10,000), Lakshmanan got two tickets to the London Worlds since Asian champions get an automatic berth to the Worlds.

Lakshmanan appears to have made the most of the absence of Bahrain, and its strong distance runners, at the Asians.

The Worlds begin on August 4 and Lakshmanan was realistic about his chances.

“I know I can’t think of a medal or anything of that sort but I will be doing both the events in London. I am excited that I will be running with greats like Britain’s Olympic and World champion Mo Farah who will be running his last Worlds. And Kenenisa Bekele (the Ethiopian world record holder in 5000 and 10,000m) is my all-time favourite, I watch videos of their running a lot,” revealed Lakshmanan.

“I want to do a good time at the Worlds, the 5000m is my strong event and I want to break Bahadur Prasad’s national record (13:29.70s, Birmingham, 1992) and I hope to bring it down to 13:15s one day. The other target is to break my coach Surendra Singh’s long-standing 10,000m national record (28:02.89s at Vigo, Spain, 2008).”

With the Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik presenting Rs 10 lakh to every gold medallist at the Asian Championships, Lakshmanan returned a rich man from Bhubaneswar.

Now, with two sparkling gold medals in his bag, he will be fully motivated to return with fast times from London.

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