In a proud moment for the city, school girl J Aiswarya once again rode her way to the top by winning her sixth consecutive gold medal in road cycling at the State-level event organised by the School Education Department as part of Bharathiar Day/Republic Day celebrations in Nagapattinam recently.
The 17-year-old, a Class 12 student of The Girls Higher Secondary School in Srirangam, has been consistently coming first in the SED competition since 2013. Her current win qualifies her as a participant in the 64th School Games Federation of India (SGFI) road cycling national competition to be held in Pune, Maharashtra from February 8-11.
Aiswarya clocked in at 25 minutes and 49.6 seconds (cycling a distance of 25 kilometers) in the Under-19 category at the January 4-6 event in Nagapattinam. Her latest gold medal earned her a joint citation and cash gift of ₹25,000 from the Association of Muslim Businesses and the Kader Mosque management committee in Gandhi Market, Tiruchi.
What makes her victory more admirable is that she achieved the feat on a sports bicycle that she has outgrown, and with a very limited budget for endurance training.
Her father S. Jayaraman, a milk vendor, has been a constant support, encouraging her talent from early childhood, when she came second in a 5km state-level race in Vellore with a timing of 9 minutes and 51.3 seconds in 2013, at the age of 11.
Aiswarya initially trained by doing 10-20 practice rounds of the Anna Stadium in Tiruchi on her father’s bicycle — a heavy men’s machine weighted down with metallic grills to hold milk canisters.
After she won her first gold medal in the Under-14 road cycling at the State Level in 2014, Aiswarya’s paternal uncle S Arumugam, a former professional cyclist, started training her. In the same year, local benefactors and school officials raised a sum of ₹2 lakh to purchase a professional Naturefly sports bicycle for Aiswarya.
The bicycle is no longer compatible with her growing figure, and affording a proper cyclists’ sports kit is nearly impossible. A new bicycle would cost up to ₹5 lakhs, while branded sports costumes would also be expensive.
Other than a bottle of malted milk drink mix provided by a well-wisher every month, Aiswarya’s family is unable to provide her with the nutritious diet that her sports routine demands.
Although the school board exams are round the corner, Aiswarya, a Commerce group student, continues to train by cycling nearly 80 km every day on the highways, and returns in time for her classes.
“I feel very happy and proud to have won the gold medal for the sixth year,”and “I hope I will be able to prove myself yet again in the Pune event. I want to make my parents and supporters proud of me,” she said.