The runner is realistic about his chances at the Worlds: Govindan Lakshmanan

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Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Rathore, on Thursday, felicitated long-distance runner Govindan Lakshmanan for his excellent showing in the recently-concluded Asian Games 2018 at Jakarta.
Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Rathore, on Thursday, felicitated long-distance runner Govindan Lakshmanan for his excellent showing in the recently-concluded Asian Games 2018 at Jakarta.

Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Rathore, on Thursday, felicitated long-distance runner Govindan Lakshmanan for his excellent showing in the recently-concluded Asian Games 2018 at Jakarta. On Tuesday, the Indian government had felicitated the Asian Games 2018 medal winners with cash awards after India registered its best-ever medal haul in the history of the Asian Games.

Cash rewards of Rs 40 lakh were given to gold medallists while silver and bronze winners got Rs 20 and Rs 10 lakh each. India returned home with 69 medals from the Jakarta and Palembang games. Out of the 69 medals, 15 were gold, 24 silver and 30 bronze.

Lakshmanan was unfortunate to have missed a medal in the 10,000 metre race. He was stripped of his bronze medal after the race as he was disqualified for lane infringement.

The runner is realistic about his chances at the Worlds

Just when his life appeared to be in tatters with the death of his father, Govindan Lakshmanan found a helping hand.

S. Loganathan, a club coach who had seen him running in school, thought the youngster looked promising.

He took Lakshmanan, who was around 15 then, to his home in Pudukkottai and brought him up as his own son.

“I call him appa (dad), I stayed there for more than 10 years, even now whenever I go to Pudukkottai, I stay there,” said Lakshmanan, the lone double gold medallist at the Asian athletics championship in Bhubaneswar recently, in a chat with The Hindu.

“And L. Suriya (Loganathan’s daughter) is my little sister,” said the 27-year-old, the son of a farmer from Sokkurani village in Pudukkottai, Tamil Nadu, who now trains at the Army Sports Institute in Pune.

Lakshmanan and Suriya began running with around 60 youngsters at Pudukkottai’s Kavinadi Sports Club, where Loganathan coached. With the youngster showing promise, the club president P.V.R. Sekharan began supporting him too.

All the effort bore fruit, for Lakshmanan went on to create history, becoming the country’s first athlete to win a 5000-10,000m double at the Asian meet, while Suriya was fourth in both events in the women’s section.

Missed Rio by 12 seconds

Two years ago, though he won the 10,000m silver and 5000m bronze, the Wuhan Asians turned out to be a bit of a disappointment as Lakshmanan missed the Rio Olympics qualification standard by 12 seconds while clocking a personal best 13:36.62s in the shorter event.

Two tickets

This time, though the timings were a lot slower (14:54.48 in 5000 and 29:55.87 in 10,000), Lakshmanan got two tickets to the London Worlds since Asian champions get an automatic berth to the Worlds.

Lakshmanan appears to have made the most of the absence of Bahrain, and its strong distance runners, at the Asians.

The Worlds begin on August 4, and Lakshmanan was realistic about his chances.

“I know I can’t think of a medal or anything of that sort, but I will be doing both the events in London.

“I am excited that I will be running with greats like Britain’s Olympic and World champion Mo Farah who will be figuring in his last Worlds.

“And Kenenisa Bekele (the Ethiopian world record holder in 5000 & 10,000m) is my all-time favourite… I watch videos of their running a lot,” revealed Lakshmanan.

“I want to do a good time at the Worlds, the 5000m is my strong event and I want to break Bahadur Prasad’s national record (13:29.70s, Birmingham, 1992). I hope to bring it down to 13:15s one day.

Other target

“The other target is to break my coach Surendra Singh’s long-standing 10,000m National record (28:02.89s at Vigo, Spain, 2008).”

With the Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik presenting ₹10 lakh to every gold medallist at the Asian championships, Lakshmanan returned a rich man from Bhubaneswar. Now, with two sparkling gold medals in his bag, he will be fully motivated to return with fast times from London.

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