Shanthi hopes to get her Asian medal and `life` back
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Last Updated: Monday, September 21, 2009, 17:26
Chennai: Shanthi Soundaraajan is keeping a close eye on South African athlete Caster Semenya's gender test result, hoping to get back her silver medal she won in 2006 Doha Asian Games.

Shanthi was stripped off her 800m silver in Doha for failing a gender test and Athletics Federation of India had said it could ask for return of her medal if Semenya's 800m gold in Berlin World Championships is not taken back if she fails a similar test.

"I will only be too happy to accept the medal if it is returned. I feel it will bring about change in my life. But I am not sure about competing in events in future," she told over phone from her home at Pudukottai.

Recalling her traumatic experience after she was stripped off the silver medal, Shanthi, who hails from a poor family, said none was ready to give her a job.

"A nationalised bank almost gave me an appointment letter but withdrew it. Since that incident, people have been treating me like a cheat. I had been to some state-level events, but was not treated like a human being," she said.

Shanthi, who now coaches poor children at Pudukottai, said she has not been training these days.

"It will take some time to get into competitive rhythm and the required workload is too high."

Shanthi, who tried to commit suicide in 2007 after being stripped of her medal, is on contract as a part time coach with Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu (SDAT) since November 2007.

"I train my wards on both track and field events. Two of them, Rani and Muthukumar have won medals. Rani won gold in 1500m and 3000m in the Tamil Nadu junior state championship and silver at the National School Games championship in Bhopal this year," she said.

Muthukumar, a B.Com first year student, won the inter-state gold in Kochi in 2000m steeplechase and 5000m. The two have also won the 2008 Chennai Marathon in the 5km category.

On Semenya's possible return to compete in athletics events, Shanthi said she sympathised with her.

"As someone who went through a harrowing time and even attempted suicide, I am aware how it hurts. Semenya also must have been hurt by the incident. No one cares for us when the chips are down. There has to be a sympathetic view on such issues."

She opined that hormonal changes "are bound to happen" while undertaking heavy workload during competitions.

"These factors should be addressed and a permanent solution found to avoid recurrence of such incidents, which are humiliating to women," Shanthi said.

Urging Semenya to fight the issue at all levels, she pointed out that Africa is a huge continent, where she would surely enjoy the support of the people and federations.

"She should remain competitive and not lose heart," Shanthi said.

Bureau Report

First Published: Monday, September 21, 2009, 17:26

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