Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Age no bar for this 81-year-old athlete
At an age when one depends on the walking stick to get around, here’s a veteran who has been setting records on the athletic tracks — all on bare feet.
N R Shankar Rao, an unassuming 81-year-old, has represented India in various international veteran athletic meets at Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Thailand. He has even represented the country at an Asian meet and has bagged the second place.
His tally of medals at the state, national and international meets is a whopping 102 with 49 gold, 37 silver and 16 bronze, besides more than 180 certificates.
Rao can still be seen walking and working out for more than two and a half hours a day from 4.30 to 6.30 am at the Oval Grounds.
And when most people decide to fade away as they reach the retirement age, Rao, who used to work in a petty shop and as an LIC agent, developed an interest in track events at 56.
He soon made a mark in 5, 10 and 20 km walk events. “My uncle D S Nanjunda Rao, who too was a veteran athlete, has been a source of inspiration to me,” Rao reveals.
Presently the joint secretary of Mysore District Masters Athletic Association, Rao says the secret behind his stamina is his sheer will power and an unwavering determination to achieve. He covers a distance of 30 km in just 21/2 hours.
“Youth today are drawn more to the TV and have less interest in sports. They should be made aware about the benefits of physical fitness and exercise,” he advises.
But his only regret is that he could not take part in the World Masters Athletic Championships in Canada and South Africa in 1993 and 1998 owing to financial constraints.
He says that due to a lack of government policy to fund veteran athletes like him, he had to miss several events.
All the 150 events he has attended so far have been with his hard earned money and savings and has spent lakhs of rupees on them.
He also laments that athletics doesn’t get the attention and funding that cricket receives. He, however, is grateful to his association for extending co-operation.