P S John, one of the oldest athletes in Kerala, at 87, looks back at his career and talks about his future plans
Illustration by Amit Bandre
P S John strides confidently onto the track at the World Masters Athletic championships at Lyon, France. He is wearing a green singlet and shorts. The word, ‘India’ is emblazoned on the front and the back. Astonishingly, there is only one other competitor in the 80m hurdles. He is a bespectacled Japanese, who is wearing a white cap.
At his home in Kanjirapally, John, 87, breaks into a smile as he remembers his achievements. “It is hard work and dedication that enabled me to win,” he says.
Asked how he got interested in athletics, John says that it was his joining the National Cadet Corps (first batch of the Travancore Battalion) in 1948 that made all the difference. At Thiruvananthapuram, he saw a group of Army men doing the hurdles. “I was immediately attracted to the sport,” he says. “Slowly, I began training with them. They taught me the right techniques. I began to practise regularly. Soon, I began winning medals.”
Asked why Indians don't do well in international athletic competitions, John says, “Youngsters don't practice enough. Most sportsmen start training a few months before an international meet. That will not yield results. You have to practise throughout the year, over many years, before you can do well.”
Before farming, John had a 33-year-long career as a teacher of Malayalam at the Gracey Memorial High School in Parathode, Kottayam. “I actually studied Sanskrit, but ended up teaching Malayalam,” says this father of two. While son Roy, an electronics engineer, runs his own business in Kochi, daughter Sindhu is a French teacher at Salem.
Meanwhile, when asked about his future plans, John says, “My aim is to take part in the 90-year category at an international event. Such a category does not exist. But if God allows me to reach that age, in good health, I will be the first to compete in this category.”
(The New Indian Express, Kochi, Kozhikode, and Thiruvananthapuram)