Gomathi Marimuthu (30 years), who made history by clinching gold at the 800 metre event in the Asian Athletics Championships earlier this week, almost hung up her boots a couple of years ago. Talking to The Federal, she recounts, “I had suffered an injury at a training camp and I thought my tryst with sports was over. My friends and family supported me a lot during that time – I was going through a lean patch and was completely demoralised.”
But then she was ordained to set the record by bagging the first gold for India in Asian Athletics Meet in Doha. “After much encouragement and deliberation, I began practising with great difficulty,” she says. Poverty and struggle have been her constant companions. But she has trounced them all with determination and inspiration from many like her. “In fact, Hima Das’ success gave me the much needed motivation. I was deeply inspired by her story and decided to do it and tell myself that I could do it,” she says.
Getting back to sports after an injury was not easy for her. “Every tournament needs you to be equipped in a particular way. I had to fall back on my talent and hardwork, and my friends who helped me financially as well,” she reveals.
The youngest child among four, Gomathi belongs to a family of farmers, which hails from a village called Mudikandam in Tiruchirapalli. She took to running very late in her life. “In the school I studied, the male PT teacher would never allow girls to participate in sports tournaments or competitions outside the school. When a woman PT teacher, Vimala Devi joined, she encouraged many like me to participate. I was about 14 when I took part in events,” she adds.
A decade long preparation
After immersing herself in the sport in her 20s, she still had several setbacks—lost her father, pillar of support, and her coach in quick succession. “My father had pinned a lot of hopes on me. So, I knew I could not give up and I had to be rock solid to realize the dreams he had for me.”
The recently concluded games that vaulted her to success saw her giving her career best at two minutes and 2.70 seconds. Much like the initial slumps in her life and the final peak, her finish was a dramatic one. After lagging behind her opponents in most of the dash, she surpassed them all to clinch the gold in the final leg.
All through her stint on the track, she was also focusing on her studies. After completing her Bachelor’s in Economics from Holy Cross College in Trichy, she pursued media management at MOP Vaishnav College for Women and began working in the Income Tax Department in Bengaluru. She says, “I looked at sports as a way to secure a good job. Those who have pursued sports sincerely have always been successful in getting employment, even as there are many with degrees like Engineering struggling to find a job of their choice.”
As she acknowledges and accepts all the accolades that come her way, Gomathi continues to set her targets higher. “I want to do even better and for that I will work harder,” she says beaming with confidence.