ZEE EXCLUSIVE: Meet Revathi Veeramani – A sprinter who slept hungry, ran without shoes, & yet she qualified for Tokyo Olympics


Had her grandmother, her only guardian paid heed to relatives and other villagers of Sakkimangalam, 23-year old Revathi Veeramani would have been living a different life today, perhaps, as a married woman. Now, she’ll have more than a billion hearts rooting for her, as she dons the India jersey and races for the country in the 4x400m mixed relay event at the Tokyo Olympics, after securing her berth recently. The sprinter who is making her Olympics foray revealed this and much more about her life in an exclusive conversation with Zee Media.

Born in a very poor family in Tamil Nadu’s Madurai, Revathi, the first of two daughters, lost her parents at a very young age and was brought up by her grandmother K. Aarmmal. Struggling to make ends meet and with even a single meal too hard to get, their grandmother, had no option but to leave the girls in a Government Hostel. From their second grade until completing their twelfth grade, the sisters remained in the hostel and carried on with their education, barely meeting their grandmother once a month. 

While she had been taking part in school-level track events, it was during 12th grade that Revathi took part in a state-level 100m dash. Despite running barefoot, she put a stunning performance and made the finals, thus impressing Mr. K. Kannan, an athletics coach, who spotted her talent. 

Mr. Kannan went on to coach her and support her financially, while also providing food and accommodation at his own house. Realizing her immense talent and potential, he urged the young athlete to work harder and pursue her career in sports. With his help, Revathi got admitted into the Lady Dock College in Madurai, where she continued to train.

What followed was the sweetness of her maiden victory – Gold medals in both 100m &200m at the Junior Nationals in 2016, following by a Silver medal at the Senior Nationals, which landed her a place at the Indian National camp in Patiala that was training athletes for the Olympics. 

Training under the National Camp Coach and Galina Bukharina she worked on getting faster and honing her technique, following which she competed at the 2019 Asian Championship in Doha, securing 4th place in the 4x100m relay. Under the advice of her coach, she also made the switch from 100m races to the 400m dash. Later that year she also took part in the World Championship in the 4x400m relay.

It was in 2019 that she got employed by the Southern Railways’ Madurai Division as a Commercial Clerk and Ticket Examiner. She is immensely grateful to her organization for having provided her continued support and encouragement while she trains in faraway Patiala. She says that her income from the Railways and that of her sister (who is a Policewoman in Chennai) is of great help in supporting their grandmother, aged 76. 

Injury struck in November 2020, when she suffered knee pain, which further aggravated and kept her off the track for a handful of months. the young sprinter underwent the most difficult phase of her track career while being under strict bed rest, and being treated by her physio Simoni Shah. A victory at a state-meet, following her recovery, helped her regain her spirits, which also reflected in her personal best of a 400m in 53.55seconds and first place at the Olympics qualifier event. 

Revathi says that her Granny is more delighted than ever, after having known the news of her qualifying for the Olympics. Looking back at her journey, she exudes that if she could make it to the Olympics, despite the circumstances she grew up in, anyone can do it. 

“These days there are separate hostels for sportspersons at the district level, training and schooling is free and they take care of everything. Back in our days, we didn’t know much about this. But the most important part is to perform to the fullest of our ability – Sponsors, coaching, and support facilities will all follow” she signs off, with immense gratitude for everyone that has supported her get thus far. 

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Sagar Biswas

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