Rising champ at 72: Indiradevi triumphs in 80m hurdles at asia masters
At 72, Indiradevi has become an active athlete winning silver in the 80m hurdles at the Asia Masters Athletics Championship. Now, she is eyeing the world championship
KOCHI: The weight of the moment did not fluster V Indiradevi. The 72-year-old jumped past the obstacles in front of her with ease and experience to win the 80m hurdles. Competing with athletes from Indonesia and the Philippines, she emerged second at the 22nd Asia Masters Athletics Championship.
Donning the silver medal around her neck, Indira took a victory lap around the track in the New Clark City Athletics Stadium in the Philippines with the Indian flag wrapped around her. “I’m happy to have represented India on an international platform. In 2019, I could only be in the 5th position. This time, I eyed an entry into the World Masters Athletics. Now, after bagging the second position, I have achieved that,” Indira beams.
“I am someone who gave sports a backseat to prioritise family and other responsibilities. Now it’s my time to shine.”Indira came second by reaching the finishing point in 44.32 seconds, behind an athlete from Indonesia. Hailing from Thiruvananthapuram, Indira worked as a teacher in primary classes. She retired while working at the Barton Hill School. At the age of 65, she decided to give wings to her dreams and dive headfirst into sports like never before. Her goal — participate in the masters’ tournament.
“I took the maiden step in 2017 during the Asia Masters in China. Hurdles, 5km walk, and relays have been favourites from then on. Then the second meet was in 2019, in Malaysia and after that, there was a long gap due to the pandemic,” she explains. The champion’s tryst with athletics started during her school days. Back then, the frequent visits to the stadiums sparked an interest in little Indira, and by 15 years of age, apart from excelling on the track, she took her passion to NCC and won many recognitions for her shooting skills.
Though she took a break in between, Indira tried her best during sports events in school. However, her heart always yearned to showcase her talents on the national and international track. “I’m part of a pension union, and another member of the same recognised the sports person in me and motivated me to be a part of the masters’ competition. When I communicated the idea with my husband, he wasn’t convinced at first. As I returned with laurels, his joy knew no bounds,” says Indira.
Indira’s fascination for sports at this age has also invited criticism from many. “People have pointed fingers at me for taking up sports at this age and have advised me many times to be at rest and not cause any health issues. Fortunately, I don’t have any lifestyle disorders or health conditions. Being physically active has helped me be hale and hearty. So I’ll continue to pursue what I love,” she chuckles.
Indira chose to lead an active lifestyle even post-retirement. “I continue the habit of walking. If I can cover the distance, then I won’t depend on any other mode of commute. I don’t have a trainer, and when time permits, I wear the jersey and run some laps around the University stadium to build stamina and strength. Also, I don’t follow a set dietary plan. I eat homemade food and drink milk every day.”
Financial backing is required
As per reports, the 2024 World Masters Athletics Championships will be held on August 13. The masters athletics, held for those above 35 years of age does not have any backing from the government. Though Indiradevi got selected for the World Masters, she is sceptical of participating as the event requires athletes to raise funds on their own. “So far, none of us has received any backing from the government. I’ve been investing money in the sport using my pension.
I can put in funds, but it’s difficult. There are many talented athletes, who can make the country proud but are unable to participate due to financial constraints,” she says. A state competition for next year’s Asia Masters Athletics will be held in December. “We have plans to raise our concern with the sports minister and Chief Minister. A masters competition is as important as any sports event, though many think otherwise,” she concludes.