Here’s another story that would make you sit up and take notice of the fact that grit and determination are ageless. Much like the 92-year-old Vallabhajosyula Sriramulu, a retired Officer in the Indian Navy, who recently won a gold medal in 10km walk at the World Masters Athletics Championships.
The annual athletics tournament for senior players, middle aged sports enthusiasts and the elderly was held in Lyon, France from August 4-16. Commander Sriramlulu was participating in the 90-94 year age group category and finished the 10km walk inan hour and 36 minutes. He also competed in the 5km walk and the 20km walk but was disqualified due to stringent race rules.
“I participated in 5km, 10km and 20km speed walk and could complete the 10km walk and get the gold. While 20km walk is my favourite I could not complete since I was disqualified from both 5km and 20km events,” he was quoted as saying by The Hindu on Wednesday.
The strict rules of the competition state that while walking in the event, the walker must not have both feet in the air together at any point of time, he must ground the heel and each time the knee must lock, failing to comply will make it a run and liable for disqualification.
The sporting meet had 8,059 participants, including 2505 women from 98 countries. India ended 34th with 2 golds with 85-year-old Skaria John Poovathinkalmattakal claiming the other medal winning the 200m Long Hurdles meet in the 85-year category. All the athletes have to shell out funds to compete on their own as there is no sponsorship.
For Sriramulu, who is a regular walker and does weight training, it is matter of great pride to win the yellow medal but to not have dignitaries present the medal was a downer for him.
“My chest swelled with pride to see the National Tricolour being hoisted at the medal award ceremony after the event, but it was disappointing to see a nondescript volunteer presenting the medal,” he recalled.
Sriramulu retired from the force in 1975 and then worked for Dredging Corporation of India in the public sector. Seeing his dedication towards fitness and athletics, the then secretary of veteran sports association Tripura Sundara Rao told him to participate in senior sports events and Sriramulu has not looked back since, winning awards and laurels at the masters athletics level.
In India as well, such a athletics competition exists which not many know of – Elderly Athletes Show Youngsters The Way In This Masters League.