While the world is sharpening its eyes and ears to the Olympic festivities in London, shadows are lengthening on the dreams of young athletes at the Mercy Kuttan Athletics Academy.
“How do I fund the academy from here on?,” asks Olympian Mercy Kuttan.
The reason for her worry is Sports Minister K B Ganesh Kumar’s stand that no monetary support be provided to private academies, even if they are run by eminent and dedicated former sportspersons like Mercy. The 52-year old’s hopes now rest on a meeting scheduled for Saturday with Chief Minister Oommen Chandy at the Town Hall.
“We require at least Rs 25 lakh a year to run the academy. I am not planning to give any proposals at the moment. I will just express my concerns,” she told ‘City Express’ on Friday.
The Arjuna awardee is apprehensive the academy, which received Rs 20 lakh and Rs 25 lakh in the last two seasons, may not get the eight acres of land promised by the government earlier to set up its own training facility. “I don’t understand why there should be a discrimination against private academies. If you look at India’s medal prospects in the London Olympics like Saina Nehwal and Abhinav Bindra, they have come up through private academies. Even Tintu Luka, the only runner from Kerala in the Indian team, is from such an academy (Usha School of Athletics),” she said. The MKAA was launched in 2009 by Mercy and her late athlete husband Murali Kuttan with the Sacred Heart College Ground in Thevara as their base. Having caught the attention of the athletics fraternity after three years of hard work, the government’s decision is a hefty blow to the academy youngsters’ aspirations. “There are 14 athletes (all under 18 years of age) in the academy now and I expect them to be competitive at the national level in the next two years. It is essential that there is no hindrance to their training programme,” said 1982 Asian Games long jump silver medallist.
Olivia Ann Maria Thomas (under-16 800m) had created a new meet record while Neethu Sabu claimed the under-18 400m gold in the recent state inter-club athletics championship. Mercy’s son Sujith Kuttan, one of the most promising athletes in the country, also trains at the academy. MLAs Hibi Eden and Dominic Presentation told Express that they would press the government to lend financial assistance for two more years by which time alternative sponsorship could be arranged.