By Violet Pereira
Photographs: Rajesh Shetty
Team Mangalorean, Mangalore
Mangalore, August 30, 2008: "It was a great pride to represent India. In fact I was more proud because I was the youngest athlete to represent India in Beijing Olympics 2008" says Poovamma, Mangalore's promising athlete who is back home from Beijing. Poovamma was a member of the India's women's 4x400 metre relay squad.
Poovamma doesn't look disappointed for not clinching any medal for India in relay, but this petite 18-year-old girl has high hopes for future of Indian sports. "Beijing 2008 has given me a new hope to prepare for the next Olympics in London," says Poovamma, a student of Sri Dharmasthala Manjunateshwara College of Business Management, Mangalore.
The six member team had earned a berth in Beijing Olympics after their standout performances in Asian Grand Prix in Bangkok. "Bangkok, Thailand and Vietnam athletes were competing in qualification round and I too got the chance to compete with them and I stood 2nd in that qualification round. I completed in 3.28; this is the best time ever in Indian relay," she recalls.
When asked about her feelings after her debut in Olympics in Beijing, Poovamma says she was happy to meet all the star athletes. "I was in Malaysia to practice for a month and this also helped me adjust with the weather in Beijing. I called my mom everyday to seek her blessings. In China, we received very good hospitality; they also provided us Indian food and I never felt I was out of country," she said.
"My dream is to get a medal for India in Olympics," Poovamma says confidently adding that Beijing 2008 has taught me many lessons and I will practice more and try my best to fill the gap. "I am also trying for individual participation in next Olympics" she added.
Poovamma however is disappointed with the lack of infrastructure and lack of support for sports in Mangalore. "We need a synthetic track to practice in Mangalore. When we practice at Mangala stadium, people are taking walk on the same tracks and we cannot concentrate on our practice," she says.
Poovamma will be participating in Junior Common Wealth games, which will be held in Pune next month and hopes for a gold medal. She will also attend the senior Commonwealth games in 2010.
Machettira Raju Poovamma was born on 5th June, 1990 to Mrs. M.R. Jaji and Mr. M.G Raju who works in Bajpe airport. Poovamma's early education was in "Morning Star", previously known as airport school, Bajpe. From 7th Standard onwards she continued her schooling in Mangalore in St. Mary's School and presently she is pursuing B.B.M at S.D.M College, Mangalore.
Athletics has been in the family, Poovamma's brother M.R. Manju who is studying in second P.U.C in St. Aloysius College, Mangalore also is an athlete. He has participated at the national level in relay and has secured a gold medal in state level 400mts hurdles and silver medal in 400 mts at Kantirava stadium in Bangalore. He has also participated in many school level competitions and has won many medals. Manju too hopes for participating in Commonwealth games and will be trying his luck next month in the selection process. "My aim is to represent India in Olympics," he says.
Poovamma says that she has been active in sports from her childhood. She recalls that when she was studying in sixth standard in Bajpe, her physical education teacher, Mr. Vasanth Hegde played an important role in nurturing sports talents in her. He encouraged little Poovamma to participate in a sports meet at the district level and this is when Mr. Dinesh Kunder found extraordinary sporting spirit in her and invited her to practice at the Mangala Stadium. Accordingly she was encouraged by her father and Poovamma continued to go for practice from Bajpe to the Mangala Stadium. Mr Kundar willingly supported Poovamma in chasing her dream for running for bronze, silver, and gold medals at various sports meets held at National and International levels.
She made her mark in international athletics at the junior level with a bronze medal in the Asian junior meet 4x400 metre relay held at Macau, China, in 2005. She went on to win the relay gold at the South Asian Federation (SAF) Games hosted by Sri Lanka in Colombo in 2006.
Poovamma has showers of praises for her coach Dinesh Kunder who she says is a dedicated coach. "He is very sincere; ready to help any athlete, anytime. While participating in any sports meet, he accompanies every athlete and treats us all equally apart from being very supportive and encouraging," she says.
- She made her first national record in India by securing 1st place in 400 mts., with the timing of 58.7 sec. and 1st place in 100mts with the timings of 12.8 sec held at S.M.S College, Bhramavara, Udupi District during the sports meet held from 5th to 7th December 2004.
- Secured 2nd place in 400 mt. with 59.5 in 20th Natioanl Junior Athletic Championships which was held at Vijayawada, A.P. from 18th to 22nd December 2004.
- Secured 2nd place in 200mts with 26. 06 in 50th National school Games held at Pune.
- Secured 2nd place in 400mts in the sports meet held at Bangalore and was selected for Junior Athletic Championship held at Morocco (Marakech) when she was in 10th std.
- Secured 1st place in 400 mts with 56.2 and created a new record and also awarded as the Best Athlete.
- Secured 1st place in 400mts and 100 mt in the age group of girls under 16 in the 5th Dakshina Kannada, Kodagu and Udupi District Athletic Championship and awarded the Best Athlete consequently for 3 years.
- Secured 1st place in 400mts with 55.43 and created a new National Record in the sports meet held at Chennai from 25th 29th November 2005.
- Secured 1st place in 200mts and 400 mts., 2nd place in 100mts and represented school in Individual Championship under-16 girls category held at Bangalore from 28th to 30th November 2005.
- Secured 1st place in 4x400 mts relay in (SAF) Games held at Colombo (Srilanka).
- Secured 3rd place in 4x400 mts relay in Junior Asian held at Macau (China)
- Secured 7th place in 4x400 mts relay in World Junior held at Beijing (China)
- Secured 1st place in 400 mts with 54.7 (National new record) in National Junior Athletic Championship held at Bangalore in June 1st & 2nd 2007.
- Secured 3rd place in 400mts with 55.3 in the sports meet held at Bangkok.
- Secured 1st place in 200mts with 25.5 and 400 mts with 56.7 in Nationals meet held at Kolkatta.
- Secured 3rd place in 200mts with 24.7 in Senior Federation held at Bhopal.
- Secured 3rd place in 4x400 mts relay in World Youth Championship held at Czech in July 2007.
- Secured 3rd place in 4x400 mts relay in Asian Indoor meet held at Macau (China) in 2005.
- Secured 1st place in Asian Grand Prix held at Thailand in 2008.
Poovamma has an inspiring message for aspiring athletes - Work with determination, perseverance and work hard to chase your dream. Support from the parents is more important than anything else for every child to exhibit their talents. "Discipline is the main formula for success," she says.
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Poovamma - Trail Blazing On The Track