Gomathi Marimuthu did India proud winning a gold medal in the recently concluded Asian Athletics Champions in Qatar.
The 30-year-old Gomathi, a native of Tamil Nadu, clocked personal best time of two minute 02.70 seconds in the women's 800m race to land the gold.
Gomathi, who hails from a village near Tiruchirapalli, said her next target is to do well at the World Athletics Championships.
"My next aim is to perform well in the World Athletics Championship later this year," Gomathi, an employee of the Income Tax Department, Bengaluru, told PTI from Tiruchirapalli.
Gomathi Marimuthu might have become an overnight star with her gold-winning effort but her journey has been very difficult.
Daughter of a farm labourer (late Marimuthu), Gomati said she would have recorded a better timing if it weren't for those years that she lost due to injury and lack of support.
"No one knew me before, now that everyone knows me I am getting support from various quarters including the Tamil Nadu government. I could have recorded a better time if I had not lost those years due to injury and lack of support," she said.
Recalling the tough days she had to endure when her father and coach passed away, Gomathi said she battled an injury and it was only because of her friend's encouragement that she kept going.
"The year 2016 was a tough one for me as I lost my father and coach but my friend Francis Mary encouraged me and told me to continue the sport. Also, a groin injury meant I missed nearly two years," Gomathi, who has been hopping from one felicitation function to another after arriving in India from Doha, said.
Father ate cattle's food to save money for Gomathi's training
Gomathi Marimuthu told that her unwell father used to eat cattle's food to save money for her sports diet. She even mentioned that despite being hospitalised, he used to eat the fodder so that Gomathi's diet and training don't get hampered.
Teary-eyed Gomathi said she will never forget the difficult phases of her life.
Gomathi's brother M Subramani said his father used to support Gomathi a lot during the initial days and would have been delighted to see her win a medal in an international event.
Controversy over her 'lucky shoes'
About the shoe controversy that cropped up after reports of her wearing torn shoes, Gomathi said it was not the case and the ones she had worn were "lucky shoes."
"I have heard this so many times (the shoe issue). It is not like that. The pair I wore during the race were lucky ones. I am very sentimental about that pair so I used it for the final," she clarified.
Continuous support from family members
Her mother, 52-year old Rasathi, who works in a field, was overjoyed at Gomathi's achievement and said the entire village celebrated the triumph.
"Gomathi told me that she was going abroad to take part in an athletics meet and that she would call me after April 25. Till she won, I had no idea about her achievement. I am very proud that my girl from this small village has reached such heights with determination and hard work," said Gomathi's mother.
She said her late husband had supported Gomathi a lot after she displayed interest in athletics from a young age.
"My husband would have been very happy if he had been alive to see Gomathi win such a big prize. I am happy that she had realised his dreams," she added.