CHENNAI: It was a late intervention that ensured the participation of Tamil Nadu’s S Barath in the mixed 4x400m relay final of the World U20 Athletics Championships in Nairobi on Wednesday. The 18-year-old hadn’t taken part in the heats on Wednesday morning since he was carrying an ankle injury on his left leg, and it needed persuasion from the Tamil Nadu Athletics Association (TNAA) for the youngster to be included.
The move worked wonders as he gave the Indian team a fantastic start with a timing of 47.12 seconds and set the foundation for their bronze medal at the World U20 Athletics Championships. Priya Mohan, Summy and Kapil were also part of the medal-winning relay team.
The call to the Indian camp was made by TNAA secretary C Latha after consulting Barath’s personal coach, R Pugazhenthi. Latha was convinced that Barath would be able to do a good job in the final given that he had won gold in 400m at the recently-held junior Federation Cup in Sangrur with a timing of 47.55 seconds. As a result, Kerala’s Abdul Razak did not take part in the final.
“After seeing the heats, I called his personal coach and asked him why Barath didn’t run. The coach informed me that he is carrying an injury. But it was not a severe injury and I knew that he will do well if given a chance. The junior national coach was eventually convinced and allowed Barath to participate,” Latha told this daily on Thursday.
Barath, who was equally keen to run in the final, is now pleased that he was able to contribute to India securing a medal on the opening day of their campaign. The pain on his left ankle had initially surfaced when he was training with his coach in Chennai last month. It became more severe once he joined the national camp in Patiala, as the switch from running on mud to synthetic tracks took its toll.
Once Barath – the son of a lorry driver in Viluppuram – is back home, he hopes to give his ankle plenty of rest and recover fully. “I have consulted top physios in Chennai. Within one month of proper rest and recovery, I am confident Barath will be fit again” coach Pugazhenthi said.
The 27-year-old coach met Barath at a school national championship in November 2019 and decided to take him under his wing. He enrolled the youngster at Loyola College in Chennai last year and has also been allowing Barath to stay at his house.
“I struggled to find proper guidance when I was in Viluppuram. During my 9th and 10th standard days, I even dropped sports since I thought I won’t be able to make it without adequate coaching and facilities,” recalled Barath.
While those struggles are a thing of the past, the last few months have been no less tumultuous for Barath. He contracted Covid when he had returned home to Viluppuram at the height of the second wave in June. “After getting Covid at my home in Viluppuram, my lung capacity reduced significantly. I was feeling that I cannot run like earlier, but I am now better,” Barath informed.