Daisy Victor arrives at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium at 7:30 am every day. From running laps to build her core strength to throwing heavy discus and shot put, she does it all.
If you met her in Chennai, you would easily pass her off as a petite old lady. But at 87, Daisy Victor is a national and international champion!
In her seven-decade career, the sportswoman has participated in 20 international meets, 36 national meets and 59 district meets in the veteran category. Moreover, she has clinched a whopping 414 medals.
Of which 345 are gold!
She made headlines yet again, after winning a bronze medal at the 2018 World Masters Athletics Championships for shot put and discus throw.
In an interview with The Hindu, the athlete who was felicitated by Chennai NGO Udhavi with SPARRC Institute, on World Elders Day recalls her journey.
She was born in the town of Nazareth near Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli but grew up in Bellary due to her father’s job as a postmaster.
It was he who first encouraged her love of sports. And so, a young Daisy who started running at the age of eight continues to run even at 87. A major credit of this also goes to her husband, Victor Sundararajan.
During school, Daisy performed exceptionally in track and field events. Even though she earned a job with Madras Telephones in 1951, her talent pushed them to give her the special permission to train for two hours every day.
She became the face of the organisation and won medals in every event she participated. She married Victor in 1956 and in the decade that followed, bore six children.
Yet, her training never took a break.
“I used to run till the third trimester and got back to practice one-month post-delivery,” she told The Hindu.
In 1980, India’s very own flying Sikh, Milkha Singh, went to Chennai. It was at this time that he established the Veteran Athlete Association.
“He motivated me to participate in world veteran athletic meets and 1981, I went to New Zealand and secured the 7th rank. It was then that I started coaching under Victor Wilson. He coached me for international meets. But for my parents and my husband, I wouldn’t have been able to pursue my passion,” she says.
Till date, Daisy wakes up early and trains at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium each day from 7.30-9.30 am.
“Every morning, I pack breakfast and coffee in a flask and leave for practice. It is my routine to go to the bank or post office after practice, and return home by 11 am,” she adds.
Her favourite events to compete are triple jump and long jump. But unfortunately, she stopped participating in these events three years ago, after the death of her husband. She found it difficult to cope with his absence.
At the moment though, she is concentrating on discus, shot put and running. Apart from winning the bronze at the Masters Meet in Spain, she also clinched three golds medals at the district-level masters meet on September 30.
Shedding light on the secret to her much-admired health, the octogenarian says, “In all these years, I have not experienced any illnesses or aches, thanks to my genes. It’s only recently that I’m finding it a little difficult to climb down the stairs.”
And while her family, which includes her children, grandchildren and great-children, has always supported her, some naysayers say, “Why do you want to run like this every day? Do you want to fall and trouble everyone? Can’t you just sit at home and relax with your great grandchildren?”
To which, she replies, “But I have the energy, and I use my hard-earned money to travel to sports meets.”
Although she has not received any financial aid from the government, she is immensely thankful to Dr Kannan Pugazhendi of SPARRC Institute who has been sponsoring her sports medicine treatment free of cost for the past few years.
Despite the lack of government support, she proudly recalls the time when she was felicitated by former Prime Minister Late Indira Gandhi, along with Milkha Singh in 1981.
At the time of writing this piece, Daisy was leaving for Ludhiana. She told the publication, “I intend to train there for triple jump and break my own record.”
We wish Daisy inspires not just elders but also youth to chase their dreams.
Keep running, Daisy. We are proud of you!
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)