Published: 21st July 2021
Sprinter Revathi Veeramani is all set to represent India in the 400m relay at the Tokyo Olympics. Check out her story
Revathi qualified for the Olympics after she topped the trials for the 4x400m relay conducted by the Athletics Federation of India with a personal best time of 55.53 seconds
On July 30, 23-year-old Revathi Veeramani will stand at the starting line of the 4x400 m relay wearing the Indian jersey, at the Tokyo Olympics 2021, a moment that she has been fantasising in her head over and over again for the last few years. We speak to Revathi to trace her journey as a track and field athlete and here's her story.
Revathi's 76-year-old grandmother back home in Madurai can't be more proud of the woman she raised all by herself. When Revathi was just six years old, both her parents had died, leaving her and her sister in her grandmother's care. Her relatives and other villagers in Sakkimangalam, Madurai — Revathi's hometown — kept telling her grandmother (how long ago was this), K Arammal, to send Revathi to work so she could support the family or at least marry her off so that she wouldn't be a burden. But Arammal ignored them all, fully determined to ensure that her granddaughters received a proper education and provide them with opportunities to follow their dreams. Today, the same villagers read about Revathi in the papers and come to congratulate her grandmother.
Arammal had enrolled Revathi in a hostel from class II to XII. Back then, she had no interest in sports. It was only in class IX that her physical education teacher saw that she could run fast and encouraged her to take part in 100m and 200m dashes in zonal and district competitions. Then, when Revathi was in class XII, there was an event at the Madurai race course for which she got selected to the finals. That was where she met K Kannan, the coach who helped change the course of her future.
When coach Kannan saw her performance, he asked her to train with him. But she told him that she was from a poor family and could not afford to travel every day from her village to the race course. Revathi explains, "The travel would cost me about Rs 40 every day and I couldn't afford it. So, Coach told me that he would help me get admitted into a college near the race course, under the sports quota, and also get me free admission into the hostel. That's how I joined Lady Doak College in Madurai for BA Tamil and started going to him for training every morning and evening. I started seeing a huge difference in my running style. I began winning medals in 100m and 200m competitions. In 2019, the Indian camp in Punjab called me." And with that, Revathi bumped up to the next level.
Her new coach recommended changing her event to the 400m relay. That very year, she participated in the Asian track and field event at Doha, where she placed fourth in the 400m flats. The same year, again in Doha, she took part in the world championships, in the 4x400m relay event. In 2020, owing to the pandemic, there were no events in India and travelling abroad was restricted. However, practice continued within the camp as usual.
Although Revathi's dreams for the Olympics were put on hold, she continued to prepare for it. In 2021, the Athletics Federation of India called for selection trials for the 4x400m relay and Revathi topped it with a personal best time of 55.53 seconds, paving her way to her first Olympics. It was a dream come true for her and her coach Kannan too. Revathi also recalls the support of her friends back at the camp. "A lot of the students and coaches supported me, even financially when I needed to buy shoes and other equipment. I am so grateful to them. I want to keep doing my best as long as I can. That's my only goal," she says.
She adds, 'When I was in school, I didn't know much about the opportunities available in the field of sports. To those out there who have dreams like me but feel that they don't have the opportunity, I want to say that there are sports hostels in almost every district. You will get all the support and training you need as long you have the passion and determination. So don't give up on your dreams."