KOCHI: Indian athletics has always been bereft of real superstars. Apart from a few sporadic instances of triumph, there are no real heroes. Those that rose were despite the system. Siddhanth Thingalaya, the sprint hurdler, who trains in California is the latest example. Siddanth recently managed to grab some media space after qualifying for the World Championships.
The 26-year-old has been training in the United States on his own since the 2014 Asian Games. Before that, he had the support of Mittal Champions Trust and once they shutdown, he came under the wings of JSW. Just after the 2014 Asian Games, the JSW snapped a contract with him citing that his development plateaued. “Don’t you think we deserve a better deal?” the tall, robust athlete responded from his California training base almost a week after he had qualified for the London mega event with a 13.48s run.
In fact, Siddhanth deserved a better deal just for the fact that he has broken his own record 14 times ( two of them in indoors).
However, since left to fend for himself, Siddhanth leaned on to his parents — both bank employees — to bankroll the training.
“They knew how passionate I was about hurdling. So they told me I can go and they will pay my bills,” Siddhanth told Express.
Being an officer in ONGC also helped his cause. But his parents help and his own salary proved to be insufficient to continue with his then coach. And thus stepped in Garry Cablayan, an NFL coach, who himself was a long hurdler. “I spoke to him and we reached an understanding about the fee. He in fact adjusted his fee to make it affordable for me,” Siddhanth revealed.
The lanky athlete said his parents used to spend a minimum of $10000 for a season’s training.
“I know it’s a big risk I am taking. Making the parents spend their savings on my passion. I was expecting the TOPS scheme to help. I was close to qualifying for Rio Olympics. But they had no news for me,” he said.
Siddhanth’s 13.48s is a new national record. Earlier this season, he had two wind-aided sub 13.5s jumps. Since then, he was chasing that legal, elusive jump which could fetch him a World Championship berth.
That finally happened at the Altis Invitation meet in Phoenix.
Now, Siddhanth has his eyes on the Asian Championship. “I’ve been consistently doing 13.4-13.5s. I haven’t peaked yet. So, I can run better,” he said. With a penchant for breaking records as frequently as breaking his goggles while running, Siddhanth is hoping that his race against time and tide would be adulated one day. “That’s how superstars are born. They go through the grind before becoming one,” he said.