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.
“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.”
|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.