Time will tell whether EM Indulekha has the speed to be the face of Indian athletics but she sure has the spirit. At 18, she has already had to cope with poverty, her father’s death, a serious leg injury and being rejected by the Usha School of Athletics. Forget setting her back, these setbacks have spurred her to Olympic dreams.
Indulekha won four gold (100, 200, 4x100 relay & 4x400 relay) and one silver (400m) at the national schools’ athletics championship in Kochi earlier this year. She set meet records in the sprints and was also the individual champion in the senior girls section. And when Indulekha clocked 11.98 seconds in 100m dash, she erased a 10-year-old national meet record in her age-group bettering Delhi’s KR Vinith Tripathi’s mark of 12.08 seconds.
Older of the two daughters of the late Unnikrishnan Nair and Indira, Indulekha took to athletics like most girls do in Kerala. When she was selected to PT Usha’s school in Koyilandy in 2002, she was 12. A leg injury though cut her stint there after one year. She claimed to have regained fitness but the school directors did not think she was good enough for another dekko.
Indulekha cried through the train journey back home but began working out at a gymnasium soon after. She also got admitted to the famous St Geroge’s School, Kothamangalam, an institution which has produced Olympians, Sini Jose and K. Beenamol among them. Under school coach, Raju Paul she began doing well only for fate to deal another blow.
Unnikrishnan, a labourer by profession, died of cancer. Indira joined a coir spinning factory and Indulekha helped repay Unnikrishnan’s house-repairing loan with her prize money.
Having taken her senior secondary examinations last month, Indulekha is now focussing on the lap race. She has been a trialist at the Mittal Champions Trust and hopes it will be her vehicle to the London Games in 2012. And the Commonwealth Games next year.