If you have been caught up in the trending environment of Lok Sabha elections, Game of Thrones and Indian Premier League then you would have likely missed the laurels this woman achieved at the 23rd Asian Athletics Championships, Doha. It was none other than the 30-year-old middle distance runner Gomathi Marimuthu who entered history books by clinching India’s first ever gold medal in the competition.
There is innumerable amount of young sporting talent in our country. Many reach the pinnacles of greatness with proper training and resources. However, not all are as privileged. Just ask Gomathi Marimuthu. Having been raised by parents who couldn’t afford a day’s meal, she received anything but an ideal upbringing. However, where there’s a will there’s a way. Her parents made sure that Gomathi received the best that they had to offer. And how she repaid the faith!
This is the inspirational story of a woman who has defied a mountains of challenges on her way to glory. This is the story of Gomathi Marimuthu…
How it all started
Gomathi was born in the family of farmers. Her parents would both work in farms to make a living. They had three children. Although Gomathi was the youngest of the three, she was also the brightest. Having been a topper in her class, she also went on to attend college – the Holy Cross College in Tiruchirappalli – making her the first from her family to achieve the feat.
"My father ate the food kept for cattle in order to provide me with decent food so that I can train for athletics" – Gomathi Marimuthu. She had no sponsors and no support. We reward our athletes only after they achieve. Not when they are struggling and looking for support. pic.twitter.com/lu52ExxAVn
— Bharath Ramaraj (@Fancricket12) May 7, 2019
However, it was her dear friend Shruti who first inspired Gomathi to ‘run’. Until then, it had been a daily routine from nine to five. As a result, she began running professionally at the age of 20. And then started an undying tryst between her and running. Even after going on to secure a normal day job at the Income Tax department in Bengaluru, the ignited runner made it a point to take time out to train regularly. It was this consistent training that would come handy while competing in various tournaments.
Struggle, struggle and more struggle
Years of rigorous training helped Marimuthu reach the final of the 800m event at the Asian Championship in Pune in 2013, where she finished seventh. Two years later, in Wuhan, China, she finished fourth for the same event. She moved past Kazakhstan’s Margarita Mukasheva and China’s Wang Chunyu to clinch the gold medal with a personal best timing of 2:02.70s later on.
Every athlete has a bad-patch in his career, and Gomathi was no different. Her ‘bad-patch’ came in 2016 after her father passed away due to colon cancer. In the same year, Gomathi herself suffered a severe groin injury.
As a result of these unfortunate events, she had to side on the sidelines for two important years of her prime age. However, instead of complaining or bogging down, she worked extremely hard and trained her way back to the tracks. However, one disappointment, a chip on the shoulder would be the fact that the runner missed major events such as the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games.
Rise of Glory
On her return she began joining national events. Soon, Gomathi qualified for the Asian Athletics Championships with a spectacular win at 2019 Federation Cup in Patiala. Her timing of 2.03.21 would have secured a gold medal at the 2017 Asian Championship in Bhubaneswar had she participated in it. However, authorities didn’t select her for the upcoming championship.
They asked her to appear for another trial. Nonetheless, she once again proved her mettle and showed that the win at Patiala wasn’t a fluke. She had indeed come back to the sport. From there the distance runner is in no mood to look back. Things have been challenging in the last few years. But she never had any doubts about her own abilities.
Remembering one particular incident which is still etched in the memory of her father, Gomathi said, “When my father was not well and admitted in the hospital, he ate the food kept for cattle just because he wanted to provide food for me for sports training I still cannot accept or forget it. If he was alive now, I would have considered him as my God,” said a tearful Gomathi Marimuthu when she returned to India from Doha.
“My next aim is to perform well in the World Athletics Championship later this year,” Gomathi, an employee of the Income Tax Department, Bengaluru, told PTI. “I also want to run in the Olympics and am preparing for it. Now more and more people and the government is supporting me. I want to do everything possible to qualify for the Games in Tokyo. The aim is to qualify for the Olympics,” the athlete said.
Gomathi’s life has been full of real ‘trials’ needing her to overcome with implausible strength and willpower. She might have become an overnight star by winning a gold medal at the recently-concluded Asian Athletics Championship in Doha, but the years of pain and hard work that has gone behind the achieving the yellow metal often goes unnoticed.
As Marimuthu Gomathi prepares for the biggest challenge of her life – qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics – we will her all the best.