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From an emaciated 18-year-old when he joined the Army unit of the Madras Regiment Centre in Wellington in 2010 to becoming one of the best quarter-milers in the country now, S. Arokia Rajiv’s narrative has been one of sheer grit, determination and fighting against the odds.
The eldest son of a school bus driver, Rajiv was forced to discontinue his studies to earn a living and help his struggling family: he has a younger brother and a younger sister.
His life took a turn for the better after he joined MRC Wellington as a Sepoy. Primarily a long jumper in his school days, Rajiv changed to the 400m on the advice of his coach and mentor Ramkumar at MRC Wellington.
In two years, Rajiv showed his prowess in the 400m, winning medals in the inter-Army (South) meet, the Athletic Area championship and the Southern Command championship, where he was adjudged the best athlete.
“His basic skills were good. He was doing a distance of 6.60m in long jump. What I liked about him from the beginning was his spirit and hunger to excel, which is quite rare nowadays. I thought with his build, he will do much better in 400m than in long jump,” says Ramkumar.
Thirty days before the Incheon Asian Games, Rajiv encountered another setback. While warming up during the camp in Patiala, he pulled his right hamstring. The National Federation initially thought it would be unwise to recommend Rajiv’s name for the Asian Games, but it was at the insistence of Indian team coach Muhammed Kunhi that he was retained. “I am really grateful to Kunhi sir,” says Rajiv.
Minutes before the start of the men’s 400m race, as he was getting ready in Lane 5, Rajiv was in a “confused state of mind.” The hamstring injury, the plight of his family and his struggles ran through his mind.
In an inspired performance, Rajiv gave his all in the home stretch going past athletes from China and Thailand to bag the bronze in a time of 45.92s (personal best).
The National Open meet in Chennai in 2012, Rajiv remembers vividly, was his first gold medal at the national level, and he has a special fondness for the Nehru Stadium. “I have been to several stadiums. But I would rate Chennai and the one at Pune as having the best tracks in India. The Nehru Stadium gets the best out of you,” says Rajiv.
The next year, he won two golds and a silver in the Asian Grand Prix in Thailand and Sri Lanka.
The 23-year-old native of Vazhudaiyur, a small village in Lalgudi (Tiruchi), recalls the two-month beach training he had along with some of his MRC mates at the Marina as one of the defining moments of his career. “After the beach training in 2011 where I took a lot of load, my endurance improved,” he says.
Rajiv, promoted as Junior Commissioned Officer, says he was eager to get back to training (he is spending time with his family and friends in his village) and focus on the upcoming world championship (Beijing) and the Asian Track and Field championship (Wuhan, China).
“I still have another 7-8 years. I want to chart out my own path and prove to the world I am different from others in the athletic field,” he says.
From: The Hindu