Gayathry Sivakumar: Flying princess!

She now trains at the Maharaja’s Stadium in Kochi with another half dozen high jumpers, all medallists in some national meet or the other.

Gayathri Sivakumar celebrates after winning the women’s high jump gold in the 57th National Inter-State Senior Athletics Championship at Acharya Nagarjuna University (ANU) campus in Guntur.   -  V. Raju

Name: Gayathry Sivakumar

Age: 16

From: Kochi, Kerala

Education: Standard XI, Sacred Heart’s HSS, Kochi

Discipline: High jump

The beginning: As a little girl, she was a sprinter and long jumper but she got hooked to high jump when she saw her older sister Pooja doing the event.

“I took to the high jump because I saw my sister almost flying; I liked that part very much,” she says.

She now trains at the Maharaja’s Stadium in Kochi with another half dozen high jumpers, all medallists in some national meet or the other.

“We are like family,” says Gayathry. “And since our coach Manoj Thomas is also an active high jumper in the national circuit, it is all the more fun. There is a competitive feel to it too.”

Father: S. Sivakumar is a billboards and hoardings businessman. “We had gone to Pune in 2012 for the Inter-Zone Nationals. Gayathry was only 11 then and she won the gold in the under-14 age group with a record. But they refused to present her the medal because she was under-aged and ineligible to compete in the meet. We then realised that our little daughter could make it big in high jump.”

Mother: Sheeba is a housewife. “Gayathry never needed to be pushed to go for her early morning training sessions. She would set the alarm herself and do everything on her own. I was a high jumper when I was young and my older daughter Pooja was also a high jumper. Gayathry took to high jump after watching her sister.”

Mentor: Manoj T. Thomas, her coach, feels Gayathry has a lot of potential but needs to be consistent. “She has got the technique but she needs to develop her strength to be consistent. It’s like Sachin Tendulkar and Chris Gayle,” says Manoj, bringing in an interesting comparison.

Gayathry Sivakumar with her coach Manoj T. Thomas.   -  Special Arrangement

 

“Tendulkar is all about timing, does not rely on power, while Gayle is all brutal power. Now, if there is a small mistake in her run-up, her day will be very bad. She would become a zero. But once she develops her strength, she would be a wonderful and consistent jumper.”

“Though she is not very tall (height 1.65m), she has a body structure that is suitable for high jumpers and she is very explosive. Her technique is very good and she believes in her ability to do the big jumps.”

Achievements: 2013: Under-14 National (1.55m) & under-14 inter-zone champion (1.59m, national record).

2014: National under-14 champion (1.61m, with National record).

2015: National under-16 silver medallist (1.60m).

2016: National under-16 champion (1.67m).

2017: Youth Nationals gold (1.66m).

2017: Inter-State Nationals gold, Guntur (personal best 1.79m).

2017: Junior Nationals silver, Guntur (1.71m).

Aim: “I’m only 16 and I have done 1.79m, I believe that within two to three years I will be going over 1.92m (women’s national record)… probably 1.95m,” says Gayathry.

“Before I crossed 1.79m in July, my previous best was 1.73. And I was only focused on a big jump, something like 1.80m, and that helped me immensely. I stopped going out in a big way and I began controlling my food intake; cut down on burger and pizza which I love very much. Onion-and-barbeque pizza at Dominos is my favourite. Also, I used to take rice for lunch and dinner; I changed that pattern.

Strong point: “She has a great fighting spirit which you rarely see in athletes of her age, a sort of killer instinct. Sometimes, I am very hard on my trainees, I shout at them but I have never seen a tear in Gayathry’s eyes. She is very strong and that’s a huge plus point,” says her coach Manoj.