The second day at the 23rd Asian Athletics Championships ended on a high note for India. Months of hard work, grit, determination and practice finally paid off for unheralded half miler Gomathi Marimuthu and shot putter Tejinderpal Singh Toor. Both of them clinched a gold medal each. By the end of Monday, India’s medal tally stood at 2 gold, 3 silver and 5 bronze.
For the 30-year-old athlete, this was her first major win at an international stage. She ran her way, all the way from the back of the pack, just to stun the crowd by winning the 800m race. Gomathi clocked a personal best time of 2 minutes 02.70 seconds in the half-mile event to win a gold for India. Recently, her previous best (2:03.21) was the golden run at the Federation Cup at Patiala.
Years of intense struggle
For Gomathi, it has been ten long years of intense struggle. As a farmer’s daughter, she had only started professionally running when she was 20. “I did not realise until I crossed the finish line that I won a gold medal. The last 150m was a very tight race,” she said. This was only the third international event for Gomathi. While she has always been interested in sports, it was her friend Shruthi from Holy Cross College in Trichy, who inspired her to take it up seriously.
“When I was growing up, there was no one to tell me that I can make a living out of sports. I never understood the significance until I joined college. I just wanted to get a job and support my family,” she told The New Indian Express.
The only one to go to college among two other siblings, Gomathi landed a job with the Income Tax department in Bengaluru and started training regularly. Her intense hard work got recognised as she got selected for the Asian Championships in Pune in 2013. That year, she had finished seventh in the 800m final and two years later, at the same event in China, she finished fourth.
While Gomathi dreamed of clinching the gold next time around, tragedy struck her family. In September of 2016, her father passed away due to colon cancer and in December, Gomathi suffered groin injury. With a few months time, her coach, Gandhi died of a heart attack. “I had no one to train me. I had to provide for the family as well,” she lamented. An injury is the worst that can happen to an athlete who started as late as Gomathi. She had to wait for almost two years before she could train again, however, she was unstoppable.
Getting back up
Since the beginning of 2019, Gomathi started participating in various state and national level championships, At the Federation Cup in March, an event that served as a selection trial for Doha, she finished first. While her timing was good enough to fetch a gold at the 2017 Asian Championship in Bhubaneswar, due to her long absence from the field, Athletics Federation of India asked her to appear in another round of trials in Patiala a few days ago, where she was given a green signal to represent India at the Championship in Doha.
Gomathi’s story is truly inspirational, just like her performance at the 800m run. While she has scripted history, it is her never-say-die attitude which helped Gomathi through tougher times. The Logical Indianapplauds her determination and her achievement at such a prestigious world forum.