PATIALA: When S Siva successfully sailed over the cross bar, set at 5.14m, on Thursday night to erect a new national record in pole vault at the Federation Cup in Patiala, he bowed to the crowd, hugged his army coach and then went off the area to the darkness that had enveloped the NIS ground by the time. The 20-year-old lad from Tamil Nadu was impressed with his feat, but there was something amiss in his celebration. The glint was absent in his eyes. He was happy. Yet, he was not entirely satisfied. “I wish my coach Don Willcox was here. I would have been more happier,” he said.
Till three summers back, Siva's family resented him for ditching a sport where he was relatively doing well and switching to another that they know won't fetch him much. During his school days, Siva was a good swimmer and had once won bronze in 100m butterfly stroke in the state championship. Growing in the proximity of Kallanai dam that falls in Tanjore district, swimming was the first sport that Siva came across. But his love for swimming diminished once he went to his elder brother's college in Tiruchy to watch the latter competing in pole vault.
His brother was a decent pole vaulter that time. That was a watershed moment in Siva's life. He was bewitched by the sport that had the aesthetics of an art form ingrained in it. Being the last child of a daily wage labourer, Siva knew his ambitions had to be limited as his family's financial condition was in a perilous state.
“Father wanted to give good education to my two sisters and brother despite the difficulties. Their educational expenses were high and I didn't want to trouble him further with my ambitions,” Siva said. At this crucial time Don, who knew Siva's brother, came to their rescue. Don had come to Kallanai for an excursion and happened to visit Siva's house.
There he was told about Siva's ambition and after seeing the boy, he agreed to take him under his wings. He moved Siva to Chennai and got him enrolled in a city college for graduation. Don paid all the expenses. “From food, education and shoes, he paid for me,” Siva said.
Ten days ago Siva landed a job with the Indian Army's Bombay Engineering Group as a havildar. “Don only told me to take up the job. He couldn't come to Patiala and I dedicate this win to him,” Siva said.