CHENNAI: It was about 3.30 in the evening on Saturday, and the preparation for the 6th Khelo India Youth Games were underway in full swing at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Chennai. Ravi Prakash, sweating under the scorching Sun at the B ground near the indoor stadium, has known this stadium for the better part of his life.
In many ways, it has become the home ground for the track and field athlete from Karur. And now, he finally has a chance to win a triple jump gold at the venue where he has been training since 2017. “I have started my career in this stadium. I have known this stadium for seven years. I am very excited to perform in this venue in front of my parents and our people,” Ravi told The New Indian Express.
Hailing from Periya Panayur, a small village in Karur district, Ravi took up athletics because of his brother Lokeshwaran, who is a long jump athlete. Lokeshwaran was selected for the Center of Excellence scheme by the Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu in 2015. Two years on, Lokeshwaran realized Ravi’s interest in athletics and took him for the selection and the latter got admitted in the scheme as well. In the initial phase, Ravi struggled in the new city, but got acclimatised with time.
"I just got into the sports with my brother, he was very interested in the jumping events and also I wanted to follow his path. That is how I got selected for the SDAT scheme in 2017. At the beginning, it was very tough for me, like being away from family, new space but gradually I adjusted to everything,” he said.
Ravi was interested in jumping events from the beginning, but under the guidance of SDAT athletics coach Lakshminarayanan Ravi started focussing on triple jump in 2021. From thereon, Ravi did not look back. He won the silver in the state athletics meet in 2022, but could only secure 8th position in the last Khelo India Youth Games held in Bhopal.
“I started to coach Ravi in 2021. I found that he has a much better potential in the triple jump than long jump. We focused more on it and he started to perform well. He bagged his first state medal in 2022,” SDAT coach Lakshminarayanan said.
The 18-year-old bagged gold in the 2023 state athletics meet and followed it up with a top podium finish in the 38th National Junior Athletics Championships 2023 held in Coimbatore. It is at the national meet, he qualified for the Khelo India Youth Games with a 14.09m performance. Ravi was also offered coaching from foreign coaches after his achievement in the junior national championship.
"Last year, he performed very well on the track by winning both the state athletics meet and national junior athletics. He also got offers from foreign coaches to train under them after winning gold in the national athletics championship, so we are looking forward to that. So I believe in him that he will win the gold at Khelo India which he missed last year,” Lakshminarayanan signed off.