Interview Of The Week: Padmini Thomas : Kerala Sports – Still Lacking The Spirit
Padmini Thomas, President of Kerala Sports Council talks about the facts preventing the state from earning the position it deserves on the national sports map | By Mukesh Venu
On Mar 12, 2012


Padmini Thomas is a name that's inseparable from the history of athletic sports in Kerala. Winner of a gold medal in the Germany Invitation Meet in 1981 and silver in the '82 Delhi Asiad, she was also the recipient of the Arjuna award, the highest award in the country for outstanding performance in sports. Even though retired from the track, she is still going strong in taking  athletics to a whole new level in the state. As the President of Kerala Sports Council, Padmini Thomas is at the apex of her new career off the field. In an exclusive interview with Yentha, she talks about the current state of athletics in Kerala.

Being a former athlete herself, Padmini Thomas is one hundred percent sure about what’s lacking in the field of sports in Kerala.




“Infrastructure,” she says, “we lack even the basics with the kind of standards we maintain. There is an urgent need to have more stadiums and more facilities along with improvement of the existing ones to take sports to a new level in Kerala.”

She had a lot to say when asked about the dope cases that have left a lasting scar on the face of sports in the state.

“The use of drugs to supposedly enhance your performance is just wrong. I belong to an era when the field was clean and we never felt the need to depend on any form of enhancers to compete against other international athletes. There should be strict laws implemented against the spread of drug consumption among athletes. The laws should also be complete. In many cases, the drugs were made available to the athletes by their foreign coaches. Yet, it is only the name and career of the athlete that's tarnished. No drug can help with your performance; only dedication and hardwork pays.”

Education has always had a step motherly attitude towards sports in the state. Being a sportsperson somehow never quite managed to fit in with the image of a school going kid. Padmini Thomas agrees that that's where the biggest problem lies.

“The curriculum doesn't even have a physical training period for the +2 batches. That is simply ridiculous for a state that has always excelled in sports. But fitting in an hour of physical training into the system is not enough; there should also be good PT teachers who can identify talent, encourage them and transform them into world class athletes.”

About the School National Games, Padmini Thomas said, “The Sports Council is leaving no stone unturned and the National Games would be held in the state in a spectacular manner.”

A look into the financial backgrounds of the athletes – past and present – shows that most of them belong to low-income families. There has generally been reluctance among well to do families to let their children seek a career in sports. Now that the state is achieving great strides in making economic progress, it could, quite ironically, further dry up the flow of talents into the field.

“There is also a need to make parents understand the importance and relevance of taking sports as a career option. Being a sportsperson would give a life as successful, dignified and respected  like every other profession. We have been conducting seminars on this subject at different schools within the state.”

Kerala had captured the world’s attention when P T Usha missed winning the first individual medal by an Indian at the Olympics by one hundredth of a second. Since then, Indians have gone on to win the bronze,  silver and  gold medals at the Olympics. But the state remained out of the frame every single time. Also discouraging is the lacklusture record of Kerala in sporting events like boxing, cycling, tennis, and hockey; pretty much everything that is beyond the tracks. But Padmini Thomas assures that Kerala is moving forward in the right direction regarding athletics.

“It is true that a medal at the Olympics has always eluded us and it is a big blank spot on the wall, but it is not right to presume that Kerala has gone down in sports and athletics. Our boys and girls are bringing us many medals from many prestigious tournaments competing against the best in the world. Programmes are beginning to be implemented to promote other sports like tennis in the state. We are giving improved sports hostel facilities for athletes and having them trained by reputed coaches. ”

With the 2012 Olympics around the corner, Padmini Thomas has words of confidence, “We would be there to represent the nation along with many others from many other places. And our boys and girls will give an outstanding performance at the Olympics. They are training hard with all sorts of facilities made available for them in this context.”

Yet when it came to winning a medal, all she said was:

“I can't say anything about winning a medal at the Olympics. Maybe we will, there is a fair chance of us doing it.”

Seems like we have to wait and see whether London 2012 would be a lucky charm for the state, when one of its athletes will bring home the first Olympic medal. But it sure is a testing time for the council to keep the fields and locker rooms free of drugs and to ensure that new talents are given a fair treatment by the Council. And most importantly, pump some life into the area where there is drastic deficiency of spirit preventing any significant achievements in the sports field. 
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