Gomathi Marimuthu, surprise winner of the 800m at the recently concluded Asian Athletics Championship, paid an emotional tribute to her late father, describing the hardships she lived through, on her return to Chennai amid much fanfare.
"When I used to do sports, my father had a leg ailment and he was unable to walk. He had a two-wheeler (a TVS XL moped) and that was a big deal for us back then. We did not have good bus facility to go to the city, there was no electricity in my town and the roads weren't good either," said the 30-year-old underdog, who clocked a personal best of 2:02.70 to win gold.
"If I woke up at 4 a.m., I could catch the 4.30 bus. So my father would wake me up at 4, sharp, putting an alarm. If my mother was not feeling well, my father only would give me water, boil milk... all these things he would only do," she said.
"I miss my father. Since I was into sports, and we didn't have much food, he kept aside some for me and ate cattle feed for himself. I can never forget that one day."
She broke down as she remembered her father - "If only my father was around today, I consider him to be like God."
When asked about the race itself, which she won with an incredible kick down the final 150m, she said, "they told me that in the last 50m, I was in silver position. Coach had already told me if you run confidently, you'll win a medal. I was confident, I had practiced very well."
She also spoke briefly about the challenges she faced pre-tournament. "I had trained away from them [the team] for a month, I was not in the camp... even the Indian government didn't help me at the time," she said.