Quarter miler Sumathira Balakrishnan is the latest sporting revelation at the first ever Khelo India school games. The 17-year-old Tamil Nadu girl carrying on the tradition of excellent 400 metres runners from the southern part of India, timed 56.39 seconds while winning the gold. She later anchored her 4 x 400m teammates to another gold medal.
Quarter Miler Sumathira Balakrishnan – Perfect example of ‘Catch them young’ initiative
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. 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.
Uptill now she trained on the mud track at the Sports Authority of India centre in Rajanthottam in Mayiladuthurai. Coached under G R Prabhakar, she has used her raw talent to forge ahead and catch the attention with a fine run.
Quarter Miler specialist, Sumathira Balakrishnan knew she had to produce her best to clinch the gold. The beat line-up 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.
How did the quarter miler performed?
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 back straight. 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 the quarter miler 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 teammate R Vithya timed 56.01. “I am happy but not satisfied since my coach had expected a better time,” she said.
Sumathira Balakrishnan – What’s her back story?
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 to media persons 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 Kishore 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.
Somewhere in Kallankurichi in Ariyalur, a farm labour and his wife will be smiling that their daughter has achieved something big at such a small age.
It is such stories of encouragement and sacrifice, human endeavour and perseverance that have made Khelo India School Games a hit among the youngsters and bussing sportspersons.