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Golden run

Satti Geetha's two golds in last week's Asian Track and Field junior athletic meet ensured that her final appearance in the juniors' circuit would be a memorable one.

SATTI GEETHA'S success story continues much to the delight of athletics fans and her dedicated coach, Nagapuri Ramesh of the Sports Authority of India. By winning two golds in the 400 m and the 4 x 400 m relay in the last week's Asian Track and Field Junior Athletic Meet, this 19-year-old reminded critics that she is en route to achieving greater successes in bigger events.

Geetha shared the limelight with another promising athlete, P. Shankar, her training partner for almost six years and the coach Ramesh.

Though Shankar was content with a bronze in the 400 m hurdles (52.14 which was well below his golden show in the Federation Cup where he clocked 51.68) and a silver in the 4 x 400 m relay, the lanky boy from a tribal tanda in Mahabubnagar district has really come a long way. The two medals come at the right time after a dismal show in the World Junior Meet in Jamaica recently.

After these two won medals at the last edition of the ATF Junior meet, sports officials promised heaven on the facilities' front. Nothing, however, changed at the Gymkhana Grounds where the trainees still struggle on the vast bumpy stretch of ground with stray patches of green.

"What we require is a level, 400 m sand track so that we can train on the synthetic one at Gachibowli GMC Balayogi stadium a week before a big event," says Geetha. What is baffling is that though the ground is under the control of the Cantonment Board of Defence Ministry which is putting all sorts of objections for setting up even a mini training hall, they in all probability would not have objected to levelling the ground.

Certainly, no excuses can be offered. It is just a question of translating words into deeds. They can well take a leaf out of the brilliant performances from the two young, gifted athletes. They not only promise but also perform under the most trying circumstances. For, they demonstrated that will power, complemented with the required level of training under a true professional like Ramesh, can be at times more handy in winning medals.

Geetha and Shankar come from very poor family backgrounds. While Geetha's parents Kamala and Sathi Reddy still run a small cycle shop in Marteru (West Godavari), Shankar is all set to become the first jobholder not just from his family of six sisters and five brothers but also from the entire tanda itself in Mahbubnagar district. He has no alternative but to accept the South Central Railway offer of ticket collector's post, in Vijayawada.

His family members look to him for financial support and he doesn't get any stipend either from the Sports Authority of India (STC, Secunderabad), which only takes care of his training, boarding and lodging besides sending him for meets. It may not be a bad idea if the State Government or SAI comes up with a stipend scheme for these athletes.

Geetha, a final year BA student, picked the gold in the 400 m despite clocking 54.30 in 400 m which is way behind her own best effort of 53.80 in the Delhi Open prior to the Busan Asian Games. She duly completed a double winning the 4 x 400 m relay gold with Pinky (West Bengal), Bindu Rani (Karnataka) and Chitra K.Soman (Kerala).Aruna Kumari of Andhra Pradesh was a reserve member of the squad and never really ran the race though she was also presented the gold.

More importantly, Geetha ensured that her final appearance in the junior's circuit (she will be crossing the age limit very soon) would be a memorable one.

"For long, I have been winning only silver and bronze in the Junior ATF meets. I was really desperate to finish off in style," she remarked. What was the decisive factor? "Well, full credit goes to Ramesh Sir. He came up with list of timings of the other strong contenders and showed me what effort could fetch me a gold. The preparations went on those lines. There was a slight change in the movement of my arms and everything clicked," said a beaming Geetha.

For the time being, Geetha has decided to focus on 400 m and 4 x 400 relay events as well as 200 m. Her next target is the December National Games in Hyderabad. "There is no better feeling than winning a medal in front of your home crowd.

I would prefer to train hard and win a medal rather than promise anything big," she said.

She has also been offered a job in the SCR but unlike Shankar she has not decided yet. "I am hoping for a posting in Hyderabad so that the daily training schedule is not disturbed," she says. This is another area where the employers can be more progressive by ensuring that the concerned athlete's efforts are channelised in the right direction in the right place.

The future is bright for Geetha as she thrives on her strong points, which also reflects her unflagging determination and dedication.It is a triumph for Geetha, who not too long ago had thought of quitting in the wake of comments that she was a spent force. In fact, both Shankar and Geetha underwent similar trauma and it required great amount of persuasion and commitment from Ramesh to ensure they didn't drift to a point of no return.

The SAI's gesture in taking them as inmates during that turbulent phase was a great help. Not to forget the contribution of M.Ranga Rao, one of the senior SAI athletics coaches who was the first to spot the brilliance in these two youngsters when they were at the Andhra Pradesh Sports School during Dr. N. Parameswara Ram tenure as director.

The best part of these outstanding athletes is that they are determined to march on without waiting for any returns. Perform under adversity is the message they convey and confidently too.

V. V. SUBRAHMANYAM

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