Middle distance runner Gomathi Marimuthu, a farmer’s daughter, set the track ablaze when she won gold at the Asian Athletics Championship recently. How often do you get to hear such an inspiring story? A 30-year-old Gomathi, from the outskirts of Tiruchirappalli, Tamil Nadu, created history by winning India’s first gold medal in the 23rd Asian Athletics Championships at the Khalifa Stadium in Doha, Qatar.

How it all started

The youngest of four kids of a farm labourer, Gomathi began her professional running when she was 20. She started her career very late, something professional athletes will not dare. While she was studying in Holy Cross College in Tiruchirappalli, her friend Shruthi discovered the natural talent in her and encouraged her to take up athletics. Gomathi, who currently works with the Income Tax department in Bengaluru under the sports quota, would have barely survived financial crunch had she chosen a different path.

While she was studying in Holy Cross College in Tiruchirappalli, her friend Shruthi discovered the natural talent in her and encouraged her to take up athletics.

She was the only one among three siblings of this unprivileged family to attend college, and the responsibility to support the family financially automatically fell on her shoulder. After her graduation the family supported her athletics’ interest as she moved out of the village.

The struggle to get this far

Gomathi trained regularly for years, which led her to reach the final of the 800m event at the Asian Championship in Pune in 2013. Two years later, in Wuhan, China, she finished fourth in the same event.

This latest edition of the Asian Athletics Championships turned out to be third time lucky for Gomathi, who had finished seventh in the Asian Championships in 2013 and fourth in 2015. This time she secured a berth during a confirmatory trial in Patiala where she was paced by quartermiler MR Poovamma. She moved past Kazakhstan’s Margarita Mukasheva and China’s Wang Chunyu to clinch the gold medal with a personal best timing of 2:02.70s. Her previous best (2:03.21) was at the Federation Cup, where she won gold in Patiala.

How Gomathi’s mother reacted

The unheralded athlete from Tamil Nadu achieved her first major gold at an international event, and her family back in Tiruchi had no way of knowing of her achievement immediately after the race. Gomathi’s mother Rasathi, 52, also a farmer, had gone to work as usual on her 1.5-acre field when a neighbour rushed to her with the news. Before she was fully able to comprehend the magnitude of her daughter’s achievement, the entire village had already started celebrating this rare achievement of a local girl.

Gomathi’s mother Rasathi, 52, also a farmer, had gone to work as usual on her 1.5-acre field when a neighbour rushed to her with the news. Before she was fully able to comprehend the magnitude of her daughter’s achievement, the entire village had already started celebrating this rare achievement of a local girl.

“Last week, Gomathi told me that she was going abroad to take part in athletics meet and that she would call me after April 25. Till today morning, I had no idea about her achievement. I am very proud that my girl from this small village has reached such heights with determination and hard work,” Rasathi told Sportstar.

Gomathi has lost her father

In a tragic turn of faith, in September 2016, Gomathi lost her father to colon cancer. She didn’t lose hope and was determined to continue her running, but a few months later in December same year, the runner herself suffered a severe groin injury.

“My life turned upside down. My mother went into depression after dad passed away. It was tough to get her to do anything. The whole family was dependent on me,” she told The New Indian Express. Months later, she also lost her coach at the national camp to a cardiac arrest.

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How she fought back

“I had no one to train me. I had to provide for the family as well,” she added describing the loss of her father.

Gomathi fought a groin injury for two years and after a long break she knew she wanted to compete at the top-level again.

Gomathi fought a groin injury for two years and after a long break she knew she wanted to compete at the top-level again. In the meantime, she had missed out on major events like the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games, but there was no backing out now.

The year started with participating in national events and finally qualifying for the Asian Athletics Championships with a stunning win in March at the 2019 Federation Cup in Patiala.

“Things have been challenging in the last few years. But I have never had any doubts about my abilities, and that has stood me in good stead. It took a tremendous amount of self-belief and hard work to be able to run the way I am running at the moment.”

“Things have been challenging in the last few years. But I have never had any doubts about my abilities, and that has stood me in good stead. It took a tremendous amount of self-belief and hard work to be able to run the way I am running at the moment. 2019 has been a great year for me so far as this is the best I have performed on the track in the last few years,” she told the Times of India after her impressive win in Doha.

Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami on Tuesday congratulated Gomathi saying: “I extend my congratulations and on behalf of the people of Tamil Nadu on you winning the gold medal in the Asian athletics championship.”

We are totally inspired by her. Congratulations Gomathi!

Feature Image Credit: AFI/Facebook

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