‘Building’ from scratch: Tiruppur athlete’s tale of rise and fall aided by pandemic

While on one hand we rejoice the many achievements of the Indian contingent in the ongoing Tokyo Olympics, all is not good for several other local athletes.
Representational image. (File photo)
Representational image. (File photo)

TIRUPPUR: While on one hand we rejoice the many achievements of the Indian contingent in the ongoing Tokyo Olympics, all is not good for several other local athletes. One among them is C Sivanandam, a marathon and long-distance runner from Tiruppur. After his dreams and hopes were shattered by the pandemic, the 43-year-old athlete is now toiling hard at a construction site to make both ends meet.

The athlete, however, had to bury his vibrant history in sports and academics on the site, for Sivanandam fears he might lose his only source of income if his mason gets to know about it. “I do not have any other choice than to work at the site, from 9 am to 6 pm, to get Rs 600 at the end of the day,” he said.

A native of Ariyalur, Sivanandam never had the luxury of being coached, but mastered the art himself. “I practised in the fields by setting a clock. I have bagged many medals in several running events. I have also been fortunate enough to participate in All India Inter-University tournaments thrice,” he said.

“I missed the cut to take part in the Summer Olympics of 2000 after I clocked 2 hours and 34 minutes to complete a full marathon in New Delhi. The one that qualified finished the race in 2 hours and 18 minutes. Following that, I started participating in all the marathon events hosted at several locations to hone my skills,” he added.

The never dying spirit of this sportsman

Anacademician with two master’s degrees, Sivanandam, had in the past, worked as a physical education teacher at several schools in Tiruppur for 11 years and trained many a student in sports. “A few times, I trained Dharun Ayyasamy, track athlete who qualified for 2016 Rio Olympics, whenever his trainer went on leave,” he said.

It was only a year and a half ago that he started working as a Tamil teacher in a private school, which is when the pandemic struck. It was when Sivanandam’s family of 12, comprising his aged parents, and families of his sister and brother, residing in Tiruppur, was pushed to the brinks of poverty that he donned the hat of a construction labourer. His sister, works as a maid to generate an extra source of income, but that isn’t enough for the family to survive. A father of two little girls, aged six and three, Sivanandam lives on the hopes of seeing a light at the end of the tunnel to reboot his career.

Express contacted the District Sports and Youth Welfare Officer (additional charge) of Tiruppur, RP Ravichandran, said there is only one scheme for sportspersons, and it is open to only those aged above 60 years, to avail an old-age pension.

A dozen to fend for 
A year and a half ago, he started working as a Tamil teacher, which is when Covid hit. The athlete was forced to work at the site to fend for his extended family of 12

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The New Indian Express