CHENNAI: The Sri Ramachandra University Water Sports Centre (SWSC) was quieter than usual on Sunday. With no coaching going on, there was barely anyone around. The last two months (April and May) were supposed to be the hottest in Chennai and not a good time for outdoor sports.
Particularly in rowing, where a lot of energy is required, the scorching heat is a big negative. But for B Jyothika, that is the least of concerns. After travelling around 80 km (to and fro) twice daily six days a week to reach the facility, Jyothika still has more energy for two gruelling sessions. “She wakes up around 4 in the morning to reach on time. At this age, her dedication is astonishing,” said Nithya Venkatachalam, who coaches Jyothika.
“I barely get time to spend with my parents. I don’t want to be late for training and my parents are fine with it too,” said Jyothika, who won doubles scull gold in the sub-junior and inter-state challengers sprint national championship in Kolkata two weeks back. The father of this Government Girls Higher Secondary School student is a tea vendor. Her mother sells flowers in a local market. Struggling to make ends meet, the 13-year-old’s entry to rowing was troublesome.
“When I approached her school, they were not very cooperative. After a lot of struggle, I convinced the authorities to spare her for training. We usually collect a monthly fee of Rs 650 for coaching. Other than that, a lot of money is required for kits and nutrition. We help her financially so that she can pursue something that interests her. She fell in love with the sport the minute she came here and after two years, she deserves this gold,” Nithya, an NIS qualified coach, told Express.
Jyothika doesn’t talk much. Barely managing English, she has a terrified expression on her face when she meets new people. But it all changes once she takes position. Her partner Marian Belindda testifies that.
“She is very cooperative. We barely get time to speak to each other. She stays so far and doesn’t have a phone. So we talk only when she comes here. But she is very understanding and it is easy to coordinate with her,” Marian said.
Even after winning gold in the nationals, Jyothika is still facing problems in school. Despite constantly scoring 70 per cent in all subjects, authorities are still strict. “She has not trained ever since she won in Kolkata. The winners usually get to participate in junior nationals that will happen in Hyderabad. A lot of training is required and school authorities are not allowing her enough time for that. That’s the case with rowing in general in Tamil Nadu. It’s difficult to convince schools and parents to send their kids. Everybody asks about the scope of the sport and people crib about not winning medals everytime some prestigious event happens. But without starting at a young age, how is that possible?” concluded Nithya.