When he kneels down on the track ahead of the 400M hurdles heats at Gold Coast’s Carrara Stadium, Dharun Ayyasamy will make simple gesture. “Before each event, I look up at the sky before each event and seek my father’s blessings," he says.
It is a gesture the 21-year-old has done throughout the course of his athletic career which is already one of India’s most promising ones. At 19, Ayyasamy was a part of the Indian 4x400M relay team that shattered the national record and subsequently competed in the Olympic Games. At the Federation Cup in March this year, Ayyasamy broke the 11-year-old national record in the men’s 400M hurdles held by former Asian Games gold medalist Joseph Abraham. That record was even more impressive considering the context Ayyasamy won it in. Dharun himself was hardly expecting such a result, since he was recovering from a bout of typhoid just weeks back. He had been bedridden for five days and was taken care of by his fellow national campers whom he prefers to call family.
“I actually wasn’t that serious about making it in the 400M race. But since I was just recovering from the fever, I entered my name in that category just for the sake of it. Before the final, I was thinking that I would run just for fun. But then I ended up breaking the record” said Dharun.
Ayyasamy isn’t a stranger to tragedies and then overcoming the obstacles. His gesture at the start of every race suggests just why. Dharun was only in the fourth standard, when tragedy struck his family. His father passed away due to tuberculosis. This untimely death forced his mother, a schoolteacher, to become the sole breadwinner of the family. “It was a really hard time. My mom was taking care of every function, every responsibility, everything basically. Mom had to do everything herself,” said Dharun. Dharun consider’s his mother to be the rock for his family. “My mom is really like a backbone for our family. She worked really hard to raise me,” he continued. “But she never put pressure on me for anything.
“She never asked me to prioritise between studies and sports. She always encouraged me to do what I wanted to do. The only thing she asked of me was to be the best at whatever I did,” he said.
Finances were and continue to be a struggle. Ayyasamy’s family survives mostly on his mother’s meagre salary of Rs. 13000. Ayyasamy isn’t a beneficiary of any government funding programme nor does he has a regular job.
Despite the constant struggle, Ayyasamy is only positive about his journey. His mind is entirely focused on what he can control and that is - his time on the synthetic track. Having qualified for three events (400M, 4x400M and 400M hurdles) Ayyasamy is looking forward to give his best shot at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. In doing so, he has made amongst the biggest sacrifices of his career. While traning for the Commonwealth Games, Ayyasamy stayed in an unfamiliar Patiala only visiting home once every five months. “I know my mother misses me a lot but she understands my situation,” he says.
Ayyasamy hasn’t set any unrealistic targets for the Commonwealth Games where he would have to run under the 49 seconds mark to stand a chance to win a medal. “I will be aiming to improve my personal best,” he said. However having already overcome so many obstacles and hurdles and with unquestioned potential, few would be willing to rule out a surprise from Gold Coast too.