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TAMIL NADU TO TOKYO

Updated: Jul 27, 2021

A young brigade from Tamil Nadu is ready and raring to have a go in Tokyo Olympics in sports such as Fencing, Shooting, Table Tennis, Athletics and Sailing. By M Bharat Kumar

In just a few days the greatest sporting extravaganza amidst pandemic. Thousands of sports personalities from across the globe will vie for top honours at the Olympics in Tokyo. Supposed to be held last year, the once in four years extravaganza will see a strong contingent from India competing in various disciplines.


And of them 12 distinguished achievers from Tamilnadu who have reached Tokyo from Chennai. They fought poverty, practised hard to become outstanding achievers.


Tamil Nadu had produced greatest achievers in the world of sports who brought pride to the nation. From Vasudevan Bhaskaran — captain of the Indian Hockey team in Glasgow 1980 to Mariyappan Thangavelu who struck gold at the 2016 Rio Paralympics there are many.


Here is a look at the dozen names from Tamil Nadu, who will be setting the stage in fire in Tokyo from 2021 July 23 to August 8.


Bhavani Devi (Fencing)

Her moment of glory arrived when she won silver medal at the 2014 Asian fencing

Currently ranked 42nd in the world and first in the country, the fencer from Old Washermanpet made her beginning in fencing when she was just 11. She took up fencing as part of 'Sports in Schools’ initiative started by the late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa in early 2004. Bhavani's first trainer was Viswanathan P.


Bhavani's preferred choice in sabre fencing, in which a typical competition lasts only 10 minutes. Her moment of glory arrived when she won silver medal at the 2014 Asian fencing U-23 championships which earned her a scholarship and training in the United States. March 15, 2021 in Budapest, Bhavani, now 27, made history by being the first Indian fencer to qualify for the Olympics. Her training was in the coastal city of Livorno, Italy under Nicola Zanetti.


Confident of winning a medal, Bhavani, says, "I hope I am back with a medal and make the whole nation proud".


Elavenil Valarivan (Shooting)

Elavenil won her first gold medal at the age of 13, later winning a gold at the nationals

Who said only those from cities can make it big in any sport? Elvenil Valarivan is a rare exception. She hails from Cuddalore in Tamil Nadu. After developing a passion for shooting, she took it up since her younger days. Currently pursuing Bachelors degree in Arts and Literature from Gujarat University, Elavenil won her first gold medal at the age of 13, later winning a gold at the nationals. She impressed everyone with her shooting skills. In 2018, she came under the mentorship of Olympic bronze medallist Gagan Narang and won gold medals at the ISSF Junior World Cups at Suhl and Sydney. But it was in 2019 that she stormed into the senior shooting scene, winning the gold at the Putian and Rio de Janeiro ISSF World Cups. The World number one will compete in the 10-metre air rifle category at Tokyo 2021. Shooting is one of the promising sports for India to reap rich haul of medals in Tokyo. She will be a part of 15 shooters from India to compete in Tokyo. She will participate in the 10m air rifle mixed team event that makes its Olympic debut.


Sharath Kamal (Table Tennis)

The Arjuna awardee and nine time senior national champion is back

A veteran having represented India in table tennis in Olympics for a record fourth time. The Arjuna awardee and nine time senior national champion will represent India in Men’s singles and mixed doubles with top ranked women’s player Manika Batra. He is the first Indian table tennis player ever to become nine times Senior National Champion hence breaking the record of eight times National Champion Kamlesh Mehta. One of his most memorable performances was in 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth games, where he defeated home boy William Henzell in the finals to clinch gold. Sharath has missed only one Olympic (London 2012) since his debut at Athens in 2004.


Reaching the round of 16 or quarterfinals in Tokyo is a definite possibility, says Sharath. Sharath Kamal qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, after straight-games win against Pakistan's Rameez Muhammad in the Asian Olympic Qualification tournament held at Doha. He is an alumnus of PSBB Nungambakkam school (class of 2000) and Loyola College, Chennai.


Sathiyan Gnanasekaran (Table Tennis)

The paddler became the country’s first to make it into ITTF’s top 25 ranking

A promising paddler, he triumphed over Sharath Kamal in February this year to become the national champion that puts him high on the expectation list. Born in Chennai, the paddler became the country’s first to make it into ITTF’s top 25 ranking. He announced his arrival in 2016 after winning the Belgium Open, scripting history by being the first Indian to win an ITTF tournament on European soil. He was a member of the Indian team that took the bronze in the 2011 Junior World Championships. In a bid to stay sharp during the lengthy lockdowns, Sathiyan trained with a robot at home. Sathiyan had imported a ping pong robot from Germany and finally booked an Olympic berth in the Asian qualifying tournament in Doha in March. "I am sure that 1.3 billion Indians will be behind us and cheering in front of the television," said Sathiyan.


Rajiv Arokia (Athletics)

The Arjuna award recipient will run alongside Muhammaed Anas Yahiya, Amoj Jacob and Noah Nirmal Tom

A name to reckon with from Tamil Nadu representing India. Born in Tiruchirappalli in Tamil Nadu, the 30-year-old will be a part of India’s 4x100m men’s relay competition for the second time after Rio 2016. Rajiv initially wanted to make a mark in long jump. But later he changed tracks to tane to 400 mts. It soon saw him winning medals and making a mark. The Arjuna award recipient will run alongside Muhammaed Anas Yahiya, Amoj Jacob and Noah Nirmal Tom in Tokyo Olympics this year. He won silver medals in the men's and mixed 4 × 400 m relays at the 2018 Asian Games and placed third in the individual 400 m in 2014. He won medals in both the 400 m and 4 × 400 m events at the 2016 South Asian Games and 2017 Asian Championships. He studied at the Government Boys Higher Secondary School, Lalgudi, and St. Joseph's College, Tiruchirappalli. After the Olympics, it will be the Asian Games in Hangzhou (China) and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham for Arokia. An Army Sudedar, he says, "My regiment is now on the Assam border. Once I stop competing in the races, I will join my regiment".


Revathi Veeramani (Athletics)

She began her running barefooted as buying shoes was not affordable then

Revathi V from Madurai finished on top of the podium in the trials with a timing of 53.55. She battled many odds, poverty and the numerous hurdles to dream of achieving it big. She is part of India's mixed relay team for the Tokyo Olympics.


She lost both her parents at a very young age and was brought up by her grandmother Arammal who worked as a daily wager. She began her running barefooted as buying shoes was not affordable then. In 2014-15, she caught the attention of K Kannan, coach at Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu (SDAT) centre in Madurai and he saw a spark in her. He began giving her formal training. Her breakthrough moment arrived in 2016 when she won gold medals in 100m, 200m and 4X100m relay at the junior Nationals in Coimbatore. In 2019, Revathi won the women’s 400m events in Indian Grand Prix 5 and 6 clocking 54.44 and 53.63 seconds respectively. The final trial to select the 4x400m relay event for Olympics saw Revathi finish on top with a timing of 53.55 seconds. She is employed as a ticket collector with the Southern Railway in Madurai.


Dhanalakshmi Sekar (Athletics)

She broke the record of PT Usha in 200 metre race by completing it in just 23.26 seconds

The withdrawal of MR Poovamma resulted in ensuring Dhanalakshmi Sekar, who is the inter state and federation cup champion in 100 meters, a berth in the Tokyo Olympic games. She broke the record of PT Usha in 200 metre race by completing it in just 23.26 seconds. She finished third in the trials which was held by the AFI.


Suba Venkatesan (Athletics)

Suba Venkatesan will be vying for gold in mixed relay team

Hailing from Trichy, Subha Venkatesan secured a spot alongside Dhanalakshmi, who finished second in the trials with a timing of 54.26. A dedicated athlete, she practises hard and hopes to set the track on fire in Tokyo. She is confide


nt that dedication and hard work would fetch right rewards. A winner of many awards and acclaims, Suba Venkatesan will be vying for gold in mixed relay team this year.


Vishnu Saravanan (Sailing)

Vishnu became the youth national champion in 2016, winning silver later that year at Hong Kong

An army man from Tamil Nadu will try to tame the Tokyo waves as his performance in Oman guaranteed a maiden Olympic spot. He finished second in the laser standard class, earning the second Asia quota spot after Nethra Kumaran. Vishnu became the youth national champion in 2016, winning silver later that year at Hong Kong. His training at Malta earned him a bronze medal at U-21 World championships. Participating in sailing tournaments from the age of just 11, Vishnu is no stranger to deep waters. He bifying in the Asian Olympic Qualifiers Tournament. He was placed third on the day before the summit clash and finished second to make the cut.


Nethra Kumanan (Sailing)

The Mussanah Open in Oman was convincingly clinched by the 23-year-old a day before the conclusion of the tournament

Nethra Kumanan became the first Indian to qualify for the games by topping a qualifying event where she first started sailing in 2013. The Mussanah Open in Oman was convincingly clinched by the 23-year-old a day before the conclusion of the tournament. She pipped Ramya Saravanan, sister of army man Vishnu in the laser radial class event to represent the country at the highest sporting spectacle.

A student of mechanical engineering, she was trained to take to water in Spain. Though she qualified herself for 2014 Asian Games, her school did not allow her more than 10 day leave. But now, here she is to try her luck in Olympics sailing.


KC Ganapathy & Varun Thakkar (Sailing)

Having won bronze at the 2018 Asian games, the duo paddlers will have to tackle heavy waves

Chennai-based Ganapathy will team up with Varun Thakkar in 49er category at Tokyo 2021. Having won bronze at the 2018 Asian games, the duo paddlers will have to tackle heavy waves to be on the podium. The duo is also a part of the 2014 Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) by the Union government. From being school dropouts to representing India in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, it has been a quite a journey for both KC Ganapathy and Varun Thakkar. Thakkar does the rowing and Ganapathy is at the helm and the duo have found success after shifting from 29ers to 49ers. The duo first tasted major success when they won bronze in the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta in Sailing.




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