Education: Class XI in Jaigopal Garodia Government Girls HSS (Virugambakkam, Chennai).
Discipline: Athletics — hurdles, long jump and triple jump.
Beginning: According to Thabitha and her father Philip Maheswaran (an auto driver), winning the 200m event at her school annual sports day, when she was 12, inspired her to become an athlete. She joined the St. Joseph’s Sports Academy in 2014 when she was 13 and started training under P. Nagarajan.
Thabitha underwent a one-year rigorous training before her coach decided she’ll make a good hurdler. Nagarajan says he was impressed by her height when she first came to him — “abnormal” height for her age, is how he puts it.
Long jump and triple jump were also part of her one-year training. Nagarajan felt that she was quite good at them too and so encouraged her to pursue those disciplines as well. “In school-level competitions, one may compete in three events. So, we preferred that she competed in these three disciplines.” Her first national-level medal came in the 2015-16 school Nationals conducted by the School Games Federation of India (SGFI) in Kozhikode when she won the girls’ 80m hurdles bronze.
Thabitha is third among four children in her family. She has two elder sisters, and a younger brother who is also an athlete. Philip says his son focuses on hurdles and high jump.
Aim: Having won two gold medals — girls’ 100m hurdles and long jump — at the Asian Youth Athletics Championships (her first international event) in Hong Kong recently, she has now set her sight on the IAAF World under-18 championships (for which the venue and dates are yet to be announced).
Strong points: Nagarajan says her height (1.67m) and speed (sprinting) are her highlights. He feels that her physique is suited for athletics and she is a natural athlete.
He adds: “She is fearless for her age. I mean, you set her any task or challenge or aim and she isn’t daunted by it. She willingly and confidently undertakes it. So, you may say she’s psychologically strong.”
What they say
Philip shares interesting information which underlines his daughter Thabitha’s confidence. She had told him over phone, after winning her hurdles gold in Hong Kong, that she would win the long jump gold, too, the next day.
“I’m very proud that my daughter is making our state (Tamil Nadu) and nation proud.”
Thabitha says she has had the desire to make her country proud from a very early age. “Then, I felt I could do it in athletics,” she adds.
According to her father and coach, she is a shy person. Philip says she was a poor eater before she took to athletics. “But now she has proper eating routine because it is essential. I mean, she has to stick to her prescribed diet.”
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