Santhi Soundararajan was the proud winner of the “Living Phoenix” K!arnival Award of Kurukshetra 2017. The mere mention of her name evokes pride in all Indians and especially Tamilians. This woman’s journey in athletics is an ordeal that inspires us to our very bones.
Nothing can stop this Iron Lady, for her perseverance clearly shines in her eyes. During a difficult time in her life, she rose from the ashes by opening a free training academy. Today, her students are bagging prizes in several athletic events, living her dream through their legs.
A star with great respect and humility, she talks about her life and career.
- Firstly, what are your thoughts on being a recipient of the K!arnival award?
It is highly motivating not only for me, but for all awardees to be here. I thank the K!arnival team of Kurukshetra. It is a great initiative to find the unsung heroes of our country and give them adequate recognition through this award.
- What was the first seed in your career in athletics?
I come from a rural background where very few games like Kho Kho and Kabaddi are played, those that do not require expensive equipment or facilities. Running was my natural strength. My grandfather was an athlete too, which provided me the drive to develop my skills. Moreover, I saw Athletics as a sport that gives an opportunity for the economically underprivileged to make their mark, more than in any other sport.
- You are now a role model for thousands of young women athletes in the country. Is there anyone who inspired you when you wanted to enter the game?
I looked upon P.T. Usha madam when I began my career. However, as time went by, I realized that there are so many athletes whose achievements are way beyond Indian sportsmen. That ignited me to become the one who represented India at the International level (a platform like the Olympics) and make a statement to the world that Indians are no less capable of proving their mettle in sports.
- How do you think the scenario in Indian athletics has changed compared to when you first entered?
I have witnessed a drastic change. Today, the awareness on sports in India is far greater, increasing competitiveness exponentially. From 2000 participants who sign up for a State level event, there are about 10,000 today. Opportunities have expanded in terms of recognition, prize money and even job security.
- How do you think a person who has passion towards athletics can shape a career out of it?
The first step is to analyse one’s strengths and weaknesses, and determine whether the sport is suitable for him/her in terms of their health conditions and fitness levels. Secondly, it is necessary to be trained under a proper coach. Most importantly, the person should be mentally strong and understand that there are good chances that he won’t succeed immediately. One must be ready to aspire with patience and work hard without giving up easily.
- What is the secret behind your strength and endurance?
My mother Manimegalai is my pillar of support. I am able to overcome the challenges faced every day only because of her. As every other child would, I want to keep my mother happy too. Every time I think of giving up, I think of her and the many struggles she has faced. It fuels me to keep ‘running. Apart from her, there are people like Mr. Gopishankar, Mr. Raj Mohan and Mr. Satyachandran who have been supporting me and keeping me energized.
- What is the vision of your Academy?
The motto of my academy is “Poverty is never an obstacle to an aspiring champion, as success comes to those who truly work hard, not to those who have money”.
- Who are your favorite athletes?
Caster Semenya, Dutee Chand and my own student Keerthika are the young women whose skills I find extraordinary and impressive.
- If not an athlete, how do you think your life would have been?
Considering my family situations, I would have been just an ordinary person working in a brickyard in a village that not many would have heard of.
- Your advice for students?
Students are the heroes who can make a significant mark in the world, as they proved recently. I think they should use their power to support several other causes. I wish all of them great success in their lives.