THENHIPALAM: Crouching at the starting block, Abhirami Krishna U S has a habit of slightly tilting her head sideways to hear the starting gunshot. The ‘slant-head’, race pundits say, is an aberration and can delay timings fractionally. But for Abhirami, it is the only way forward. For, she is hearing-impaired and even after summoning utmost mental focus, she can only manage to barely hear the gunshot. But, this shortcoming does not deter Abhirami, as she amply proved on Saturday at the C H Mohammed Koya Synthetic Stadium in Thenhipalam, where she ran the second lap for Thiruvananthapuram in the 4x400m relay heats under senior girls and helped the district clinch first position.
“I can only hear a fraction of the gunshot. It is different from competitions for the deaf, where they have lights instead of gunshot. But, I have learned to manage,” Abhirami, 16, said in sign language, which was translated by her two friends from SAI-LNCPE, Thiruvananthapuram, where she is training.
Plus-two student of Government VHSS for deaf, Jagathy, Abhirami said her pet event in the state meet will be 100m hurdles. She earned a ticket for the meet by winning gold in the Thiruvananthapuram revenue district meet, where she clocked 17.28 seconds. Though winning a medal here seems tough, Abhirami feels the experience would aid her in the special category events.
“I want the experience. I like competing in open category,” she said. Abhirami’s father Unnikrishnan U S, an army electrician, is also hearing-impaired, as are her mother Sushama and sister Athira. She picked early lessons in athletics from her father, an international athlete in special category.
N V Nishad Kumar, her coach at SAI-LCPE, said Abhirami never felt she was specially-abled and always looked to compete with the best. “I am hopeful she will improve with time. She is talented enough to attain world standards in special category,” he added.
In 2015, Abhirami represented India in the Asia-Pacific Deaf Games at China and came fourth in long jump. Abhirami is the lone specially-abled athlete competing in the state meet. Engrossed with the see-saw battle for champions and champion school titles, the event’s organisers and crowd may not know of the presence of such an athlete. But Abhirami doesn’t mind. She is ensconced in the armchair of obscurity and is enjoying every single moment of it.