From a domestic help to international athlete, 36-year-old Vasanthi Anand has come a long way. In some ways, she is similar to the Vasanthi (played by Jyothika) in the film ‘36 Vayathiniley’. While the latter shares the financial burden of the family in the film and succeeds on her own terms at the age of 36, Vasanthi Anandh is all set to make her mark at the international level at the same age. This maid-turned-athlete from Rathinapuri is all set to represent the country in 5000- meter run, half marathon and steeple chase at the World Masters Athletic Championship to be held at Malaga, Spain in September this year.
Vasanthi’s journey as an athlete has been an inspiring one. A native of Thuraiyur in Tiruchirapalli district, she moved to Coimbatore a decade ago along with her husband Anandh and their two children Manikandan and Kiruthika, studying in 12th and 10th standard respectively. “My husband is a private bus driver in the city. To meet the financial needs of the family, I worked as a domestic help in houses and washed dishes at a restaurant. It was not easy,” she says. Her life changed after coach Vairavanathan spotted her and began training her.
“Vasanthi akka used to come to the Nehru stadium to drop off her kids, who were training in running. That’s when I spotted her. She had the perfect body of an athlete. Since she was lean, she could run long-distance as well. For our annual summer camp held in April-May last year, we took Vasanthi akka along so that she could help us with the cooking. In the free time, we would make her run. She started training soon after. She first ran at the district level championship held at Bharathiar University. She then took part in the state level meet – Tamil Nadu Masters Athletics Association
. This was followed by silver medals in 5000-meter run and half marathon and gold medal in steeple chase at the national-level Masters Athletic Federation of India
. She is now training hard to represent the country in September. It has been a great progress, in a year.”
For Vasanthi, the last one year has been grueling but life-transforming at the same time. “I never thought I would get an opportunity like this, that too at this age. When Vairavan Sir asked if he could train me, I was a bit reluctant. I was also quite hesitant to wear shorts while running. But eventually, I had to give in. I come to Nehru stadium by 6 am every day for my practice which goes on till 8 am. In the evenings, I train from 5 pm to 7 pm at the stadium. I am on a steady diet, which includes juice, almonds, dry fruits and dates. Since, the schedule became packed, I stopped working as a domestic help. I am now completely focused on the upcoming tourney. This is the first time, I am going to set foot abroad and I am a bit nervous. I really have to thank my husband who is making ends meet and is my pillar of support. He was a runner too in his younger days. I think running is in our blood.”
But, at the same time, Vasanthi says that the journey is not a cakewalk. “We cannot afford to buy the expensive sportswear or even follow a good diet. “Vairavanathan adds, “Vasanthi akka has the determination to make it big in Spain. Her only deterrent is sponsors. Since she hails from a poor financial background, she needs good sponsors who can help her take part in the event in Spain.”