Follow Us:

Farmer’s daughter Sumathira harvests 400m gold, thanks school principal for support

SNS | New Delhi |

Sumathira Balakrishnan’s doughty personal best effort over 56.39 seconds in the prestigious girls 400m final clearly stood out on the last day of athletics competition in the inaugural Khelo India School Games at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. Sumathira, an Ariyalur farm labourer’s daughter who studies in Mayiladuthurai, shed her inherent shyness to harvest gold with her run.

She was spotted at an event in Tiruchirapalli three years ago when she ran the 800m in 1:18. Training on the mud track at the Sports Authority of India centre in Rajanthottam in Mayiladuthurai under coach G R Prabhakar, she has used her raw talent to forge ahead and catch the attention with a fine run.

She knew she had to produce her best to beat a line-up that included SGFI National U17 winner Priscilla Daniel (Kerala), silver-medallist Tai Bamhane who was brimming with confidence after winning the 800m yesterday, and bronze medallist Payal Vohra (Delhi). Her best of 56.45 had come in the SGFI National U19 in Rohtak where she finished second.

Sumathira went all-out from the start  Running in the third lane, she passed Payal Vohra by the time the race was halfway through the backstraight. And when she turned into the home stretch, she had secured herself an advantage over the long-striding Tai Bamhane and Kerala’s Sandra AS who appeared to have expended much of her energy over the first 250m in opening up a lead.

Sumathira’s hands were flailing and head rolling but she managed to come home well clear of Tai Bamhane – and in a personal best time of 56.39 seconds. It was, by all accounts, the second fastest 400m by an Indian under-20 runner this season, her team-mate R Vithya’s 56.01. “I am happy but not satisfied since my coach had expected a better time,” she said.

Born to Kanagavalli and S Balakrishnan in August 2001, she is aware that she may have earned herself a Rs 5 lakh scholarship that can help her improve her training and push her towards winning an India call-up. “Prabhakar sir keeps telling me that I can be a sub-54 second runner soon. I don’t want to let him down,” she said, determined to keep working hard.

Speaking from Mayiladuthurai, Prabhakar said he had not attempted to change her natural running style, even though purists may not believe that she maintains the best form in the one-lapper. “I tell her not to change what is natural since I remember a legend like Shiny Wilson’s form also not meeting the approval of those who speak of the right form for a runner,” he said.

Sumathira and Prabhakar were both grateful for the encouragement that Government Higher Secondary School (Mayiladuthurai) Principal Dr Kishor has offered her. “My Principal sir insisted that I take part in the Khelo India School Games,” revealed the XII standard student. “He said he would let me take my exams at a later date.”

There is no doubt that Dr Kishore will be pleased that he persuaded Sumathira to travel to the National Capital and compete. And, somewhere in Kallankurichi in Ariyalur, a farm labour and his wife will be smiling that their daughter has made waves. It is such stories of encouragement and sacrifice, human endeavor and perseverance that has given Khelo India School Games the wings.