Revathi, part of the 4x400m Indian mixed relay team, lost both her parents by the time she turned seven and was brought up by her grandmother Arammal who worked as a daily wager. She began her running sojourn barefooted as buying a pair of shoes was a luxury her family couldn’t afford.
During a zonal meet at the MGR Race Course Stadium in Madurai in 2014-15, K Kannan, coach at Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu (SDAT) centre in Madurai, saw Revathi in action. Though she didn’t win the event, Kannan saw a spark in the then 17-year-old and was keen to train her.
(Revathi with her grandmother – Twitter Photo)
“I saw this young girl running barefoot and was impressed by her strides. I found out where she lived and decided to go and meet her. Revathi’s grandmother politely declined my offer of coaching her as she felt it would be expensive. They came from a poor family and were reluctant to pursue the sport full-time,” Kannan recalled.
“I couldn’t afford the bus expenses of about Rs 40 from my home to the training centre but Kannan sir was persistent,” Revathi mentioned.
Multiple attempts from Kannan finally saw Revathi’s grandmother give in. Not only did Kannan coach Revathi without charging a fee, he also helped her get a free admission at Lady Doak College, Madurai.
The first biggest challenge for Revathi was to run with shoes.
“Even though Kannan sir got me shoes, I was comfortable running barefoot. Over a period of time, I learned to run with shoes,” Revathi said.
(Photo Source: Twitter)
Her breakthrough moment arrived in 2016 when she won gold medals in 100m, 200m and 4X100m relay at the junior Nationals in Coimbatore.
“That particular performance made me realise that Revathi was meant for bigger things,” said Kannan.
Revathi was coached by Kannan till 2019 before she shifted her base to Patiala to be part of the national camp. While she primarily ran in the 100m and 200m events at the initial phase of her career, Revathi became a quarter-miler thanks to Galina Bukharina, India’s 400m coach.
In 2019, Revathi won the women’s 400m events in Indian Grand Prix 5 and 6 clocking 54.44 and 53.63 seconds respectively.
#TokyoOlympics07 Days to Go..Ms. Revathi Veeramani from Madurai district of Tamil Nadu presently working at Sout… https://t.co/vFw6UZoYK4
— Ministry of Railways (@RailMinIndia) 1626406953000
A knee injury kept her out of action during the first part of the current season but Revathi made a comeback to win the 400m event at the Indian Grand Prix 4 last month. The final trial to select the 4x400m relay event saw Revathi finish on top with a timing of 53.55 seconds.
The trip to Tokyo also means the talk of Revathi’s marriage is put on the backburner for now.
“My grandmother had plans of getting me married but thanks to the Olympics, she has changed her mind and wants me to continue what I am doing,” said Revathi, who is employed as a ticket collector with the Southern Railway in Madurai.