KOCHI: One could say that Vismaya VK is an accidental athlete. The girl who anchored India women’s 4x400m relay win at the 2018 Asian Games had never thought much about sports, let alone have the inclination to become a competitive runner, until she was 16. But all that changed in what can best be described as a serendipitous series of events.
Vismaya had accompanied her younger sister Vijisha, a budding athlete, for her admission to St George’s Higher Secondary School (Kothamangalam) — an institution famous for churning out athletes. “I had passed 10th with an A Plus grade in all subjects, but my parents were struggling to afford education for the two of us. So coach Raju Paul offered me a seat at the school too,” Vismaya reminisced.
Joining the school meant that Vismaya had to take part in the daily training routines and it wasn’t long before her talent was noticed. “I had never considered myself an athlete but training every day improved me and gave me the belief that this is something I am capable of doing,” the girl from Kannur district of Kerala said.
A year later, Vismaya won bronze at the state schools meet in 400m hurdles and joined the Kerala State Sports Council sports hostel at Assumption College, Changanassery where she started training under Vinayachandran C. “She needed a lot of polishing as she had started her career very late, but she has kept on improving since,” said the coach.
At the 2016 junior nationals that was held in Coimbatore, Vismaya had set a new record in 200m clocking 23.90s, but was forced to quit hurdles due to an injury. After staying under the radar for a long time, Vismaya grabbed eyeballs at the 2017 All-India Inter-University Athletics Championship in Vijayawada last November and was called up to the national camp.
“I had clocked 53.63s to win silver in 400m at the university meet and couldn’t believe it when I was told I was wanted at the national camp,” said Vismaya. “Training under a vastly experienced coach like Galina Bukharina was a game-changer for me. She put a lot of trust in me and I am happy that the team could repay it with a medal,” she said.
Vismaya’s selection to the team was also not straightforward and the confirmation only came in the eleventh hour. The 21-year-old clocked a personal best of 52.43s in the trials to win her spot as its fourth member ahead of Jisna Mathew, Sonia Baishya and Vijaya Kumari at the trials held in Jakarta on August 24.
“There was tremendous pressure in the buildup because I had to prove myself again so close to the meet. A few other runners who were excluded were also moving court,” said Vismaya who joined Hima Das, MR Poovamma and Saritaben Gayakwad in the team. National coach Galina entrusted Vismaya to anchor the relay and the Kerala girl did not let the lead slip while put under pressure by 2017 World Championship 400m silver medallist Salwa Eid Naser who was the anchor-leg runner for Bahrain.
“I have not even taken part in a senior nationals, but to come back with such a valuable medal from my first international event is beyond anything that I had dreamt of,” said Vismaya, who will now turn her attention to the World and Asian championships before taking a shot at a medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. firstname.lastname@example.org