V. Revathi, overcoming hardships for Olympic berth

V. Revathi’s journey to being part of the Indian 4x400m mixed relay team to Tokyo Olympics has been nothing short of a miracle.

V. Revathi's performances in the selection trials in Patiala earlier this month got her the Olympic berth. - G. MOORTHY

From losing her parents at an early age to doing odd jobs to provide a helping hand to her grandmother, V. Revathi’s journey to being part of the Indian 4x400m mixed relay team to Tokyo Olympics has been nothing short of a miracle.

Parents estranged, Revathi found herself at her grandmother’s home in Sakkimangalam village (Madurai) from Alanganallur. Things became tougher when her parents died when she was about seven years of age.

However, Revathi’s future took a turn for the better when the Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu coach K. Kannan spotted her at a zonal meet at the MGR Race Course Stadium in Madurai in 2015.

Seeing her talent, Kannan, a former inter-university athlete himself, took her under his wings but not before making several visits to Revathi’s home to convince her grandmother Aarammal to make the shift to sports.

“First when I went to her tiled roof house in Sakkimangalam, it was in a pretty bad shape. Her paati refused, saying that her main objective was to get them (Revathi and her younger sister Rekha) married. I again went and told her about the opportunity that exists in sports and that I would get Revathi free admission in College and will take care of all the expenses. It took some time for her to get convinced. Then I found them a house which was closer to the college [Lady Doak in Madurai].”

Budding star

At College, Revathi emerged the star, winning medals in State and National level junior competitions cornering glory in 100m, 200m, and 4x100m relay events.

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She was called for the Indian camp in Patiala after she bagged the 200m silver in the Federation Cup meet in 2018. She improved further under the Indian team’s foreign coach Galina Bukharina. She has taken part in the 4x100m relay in the Asian Championship and 4x400m relay in the World Championships in Doha in 2019.

Her qualification to Tokyo got a big boost when she won the Indian Grand Prix-4 (54.28s) in June in Patiala. She performed exceptionally well again, finishing first in the selection trials in Patiala in the first week of July with a personal best of 53.55. Undoubtedly, it was her performance in the trials that sealed her spot to Tokyo.

Fulfilling a dream

“The day I won the trials we were told not to reveal to anyone. Only the next day we were informed about who was going to the Olympics. I was thrilled. I immediately called up Kannan sir and he started crying as Sir’s dream was to make it to the Olympics but since he couldn’t, he wanted his wards to go to the Olympics,” said Revathi.

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Narrating the run during the selection trials, Revathi said running in Lane 7 [outer] was difficult as no one is in front, and everybody is at your back. “But I was determined to make this count,” said the 23-year-old, who finished first ahead of her state-mates V. Subha and S. Dhanalakshmi.

Kannan, an astute coach, learnt the ropes from the late Ramanathan, who produced quite a few Internationals. A. Rajan, a former Asian 800m champion, called up Rajan a day before the trials for Tokyo Olympics in Patiala. “Rajan sir told me that Revathi should get a head-start and never give up, maintain the lead, and she did it,” said Kannan, who believes that Revathi can improve her timing by at least a second at the quadrennial event.

Revathi’s grandmother recalled her struggle while ensuring her grandchildren complete their education. “First of all, I am very happy and proud of Revathi’s achievements. It was a big struggle for us. There was nobody to help us after her parents death. My husband died when he was 42 years old. Initially, I was reluctant to get her into sports, but Kannan sir gave us confidence. I am sure Revathi will get the name and fame for the country,” said a teary-eyed Aarammal, 78 years old.

Revathi gifted her grandmother with a gold ring and is keen to build a house in Madurai where she, her sister, and paati would live comfortably. But at the moment, her focus is on Tokyo.

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