'We Shouldn't Just Be Chasing Medals'

Former int’l athlete Mercy Kuttan’s academy in Kochi is one of the handful of centres that provides quality grassroots training in athletics in Kerala. She feels dearth of exposure is pulling young athletes back

Published: 13th May 2015 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 13th May 2015 04:27 AM   |  A+A-

KOCHI: As the national selection panel went through last-minute preparations in New Delhi on Tuesday to put together a team for the upcoming Asian Athletics Championships, one of the panel members, Mercy Kuttan, was in Kerala, scanning a totally different set of records.

The former Asian Games medallist was in pursuit of the reason her trainee, 3000m runner Aleesha P R, couldn’t perform well at the Asian youth meet that concluded in Doha on Monday.

Mercy Kuttan.jpgHaving attended the first leg of the selection panel meeting on May 8, Mercy has served her role in helping pick the Indian team for the Asian Championship.

“If I was with Aleesha in Doha, the outcome would have been completely different. Perhaps, she would have won a medal for India. Unfortunately, I was not even able to talk to her immediately after her event,” said the 45-year-old, who started her athletics academy in Thevera with her late husband M R Murali Kuttan in 2009.

The Mercy Kuttan Athletics Academy is one of the handful of private training centres in Kerala that has been providing quality grassroots development programme in athletics.

“Four athletes have gone from Kerala to compete in the Asian youth meet. They could have sent at least one coach from Kerala,” she rued.

Meanwhile, Mercy Kuttan said she was satisfied with India’s overall outing in the Asian Youth meet. She is all praise for Delhi boy Beant Singh, who won gold in the boys’ 800m event, and 400m silver medallist Jisna Mathew of Kerala, who set a new national youth record in the meet.

“Jisna’s 53.84 secs is a wonderful time. The main reason why she was able to pull it off was because Usha (Jisna is a trainee at legendary sprinter P T Usha’s academy in Kozhikode) was there with her,” said Mercy, adding that Usha went Doha on her own means. According to her, there has been a drastic change in the way an athlete is moulded in Kerala but the change has not yet started producing tangible benefits.

“When I was still on the field, athletes began their professional training at the age of 16 or 17. Today, it starts as early as at 10 or 11. By the time they are 16 or 17, they are as professional as a 25-year-old athlete in the 80s or 90s, but the problem is that they lack enough opportunities to maximise all their training properly,” she said.

In India, Mercy Kuttan said, only the athletes who qualify a certain mark can compete in international events. “Others are shunted out. I say, we should give them a chance as well, not for them to win medals, but to gain exposure to better competitions. We shouldn’t just be chasing medals all the time.”

Shifting her focus to the upcoming Asian Championship, Mercy, who won twin bronze in the 1981 Asian meet in long jump and 4 x 400-metre relay, said, “India has their task cut out to in the upcoming Asian championships and it is going to be tough.

“Except for Vikas Gowda in shot put, there is nobody else we can bank on for a gold this time. The women’s relay team has been our strong point for long time. They will win a medal, but I cannot say if that would be a gold,” said the Arjuna awardee, who won a long jump silver in the 1982 Asian Games.

“Last time, the Asian meet was held in India. Our athletes’ morale was high because of the greater attention they got and, on top of that, they were used to the climatic conditions. But this time, China is hosting the meet and they will field their best team. Besides, there is the challenge from African imports of Qatar and Bahrain,” she said.


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