At 90, PS John is game for anything

He was the only athlete in his age group at seniors meet held here on Saturday
PS John
PS John

KOCHI:  The sun was shining brightly at noon on Saturday morning. The sky was blue with wisps of white clouds floating by. On the synthetic track of the Maharaja’s College, Kochi, the 100m event of the All Kerala Senior Athletics Meet was taking place. But what was unusual was that there was only one competitor. His name is PS John. And he was taking part in the 90 plus age category. Not surprisingly, there was nobody else running at that age. 

To the cheers of the sparse crowd watching the race, John breasted the tape easily. A group of volunteers from the Sacred Heart College at Thevara got so excited by this feat that they lifted John on to the shoulders of a couple of the students, and the whole group yelled and shouted. “I had a great time,” says John. 

In the afternoon, he won the 200m gold as well as the long jump. “I was a bit tired during the 200m, as it was hot and humid,” says John. John’s athletic career had ground to a halt when he had heart surgery in 2017. But his love for running remained undiminished. Thanks to the encouragement of his cardiac surgeon, Dr Rajesh Raman Kutty, John started training again. Last year, for the same meet at Maharaja’s college, he told his family he had been chosen to distribute prizes.

But instead, he took part in the 100m and won. He called his daughter from the stadium and told the news. “I remember shivering with fear,” says Sindhu. “But my anxieties have proved unfounded. Dad has got better and better.” Says Dr Raman Kutty, “It is a feat of confidence, determination, perseverance and hard work.” 

In love with athletics 
Asked how he got interested in athletics, John says that it was his joining the National Cadet Corps (first batch of the Travancore Battalion) in 1948 that made all the difference. At Thiruvananthapuram, he saw a group of Army men doing the hurdles. “I was immediately attracted to the sport,” says John. “Slowly, I began training with them. They taught me the right techniques. I began to practise regularly. Soon, I began winning medals.”

He has won, state, national and international medals -- more than 140 gold, silver and bronze medals. 
In his daily life, John is a farmer at Kanjirapally. He grows rubber, cocoa, bananas, jackfruit and organic vegetables. “I get pure milk straight from the cow,” says John. “There is a peaceful feeling when you work in Nature. Walking around enables me to keep fit. My aim is not to be bedridden for a single day.”

Before farming, John had a 33-year-long career as a teacher of Malayalam at the Gracey Memorial High School in Parathode, Kottayam. “I studied Sanskrit, but ended up teaching Malayalam,” says this father of two. While son Roy, an electronics engineer, runs his own business in Kochi, daughter Sindhu is a French teacher at Salem.When asked about his future plans, John says, “I want to take part in the senior world athletics championships in Toronto in 2020 in the 90 plus category. If God allows it, my dream will come true.” 

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