The recently held state-level athletics meet for the Chief Minister’s Cup was a success in terms of its vision and purpose – providing a platform for sprouting athletes.
Few other athletics championships in the country offer such hefty prize-money – Rs 1 lakh purse for winners, Rs 75,000 and Rs 50,000 for those placed second and third. Former athletes feel this financial incentive will not only propel more talented youngsters into athletics but also prevent premature retirement of those competing.
The main priority of the CM’s Cup was clear enough — letting Tamil Nadu athletes spread their wings and revitalise the scenario in the state. Not a single athlete from the state — if one discounts triple-jumper Renjith Maheshwary and hockey player PR Sreejesh, both Malayalis representing Tamil Nadu — qualified for the Olympics.
In such a bleak scenario, the CM’s Cup was timely and many athletes embraced the opportunity. For example, long-jumper K Prem Kumar, a 19-year-old from Thanjavur whose performances are continually improving, showed he is one of the brightest prospects in the state. Prem Kumar hasn’t let his humble background block his way.
Coached by P Nagarajan of the St Joseph’s Academy, which he joined in 2009, he has made a swift transition to the senior circuit.
He set a junior record of 7.86m at the Junior National Championships in Bangalore in 2010 and bettered the mark this year when he touched 7.92m at the Asian Indoor Trials at the same venue this year.
Though he wasn’t at his best in the CM’s Cup, he is on a continuous bid to better his showing. “I will try to qualify for the Rio Olympics. Hopefully, by that time I will have reasonable international exposure,” says Prem Kumar.
Also showing talent is sprinter V Muthu Kumaran, the junior national record holder. Given that he is only 19, he can only get faster in due course. Triple jumper Rochelle Malathee, too, holds promise. The 14-year-old from Chennai, coached by her father Alban and long-jumper Wayne Peppin, is progressing fast and should make a mark on the national scene.