It’s been hard for national triple jump champion R. Kirthana. Her father T. Ramasamy died two months ago due to kidney failure. And just around the same time, her failing eyesight became worse. Even contact lenses are not working.
Her career as a regular athlete may be over. But they say when one door closes, another opens. Kirthana could become a para-athlete and go further than she could have as an able-bodied athlete.
Kirthana also believes that what does not kill you makes you stronger. The 23-year-old Kirthana is indeed getting stronger.
While many may find the situations emotionally sapping, she is taking it in her stride.
“He always said things like ‘Just do your best’, ‘Follow your instinct’. These are the words that ring in my ear when I feel down.” she said.
“And the thought of my father is enough to pick me up again.
“I am in athletics because of him. He was always there for me and whatever problems that I had, I would always share it with him, ” said the girl from Bagan Serai.
“He always said my best would lead to good results, and even gave me the freedom to make my own decisions.
“He always told me to follow whatever that feels right for me.
“The reason I am competing for the country is because of him. As for my failing eyesight, it has been happening since before the SEA Games.”
When she returned to training after the SEA Games, her eyesight got worse as she would regularly suffer from migraine due to her blurred vision.
She says it happened when she gave her all in training, and decided to do a check-up but did not know about the results as she had to rush to Bagan Serai in January to see her father.
“After his death, I did not go back to training due to the Covid-19 outbreak and now the movement control order (MCO) has been imposed, and I cannot return to Kuala Lumpur to get my results.
“Once I am back, I will meet coach Jaga (national para-athletics chief coach R. Jaganathan) and decide on the next plan.”
Her coach Ahmad Firdaus Salim, who started training her after the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games in 2017, said she has uncorrected refractive errors, a condition where the eye is misshapen, preventing successful refraction.
He has also suggested that she compete in para competitions.
Jaganathan said he was willing to train Kirthana and help her compete in the Para Sukma (Malaysia Games) in Johor later this year. He believes that with her ability, she could even qualify for the Tokyo Paralympics next year, and even bring home a medal.
Kirthana said she does not see the para-sports as a downgrade in her career as she believes that when you are competing, you should not look at the difference of other athletes.
“All are one and should not be discriminated based on their disability or skin colour.
“When you see people differently, then it is going to affect you. Whether it is para or able-bodied athletes, for me, everyone is the same.
“We train the same hours, follow the same strict diet and give our all during competitions. In a game, all are same. I am fine competing in any competition.”
During the MCO period, Kirthana still does her workouts and helps her family with daily chores.
She is also helping her elder brother R. Vijaydran do some renovation work at her residence in Bagan Serai.
“Right now, I am cherishing every moment spent with my family. I guess that keeps our spirits up after our father’s passing.
“To me, I will continue to do my best, and whatever that I do in my career, it will be dedicated to my father.”