India has the potential to produce world-class distance runners : Maria Mutola
"World champions arise from the most unlikely of place and there is no reason why India cannot produce one. The young athletes need to believe in themselves, but most importantly they need to go under the right coaching program. That is of vital importance," said Maria Mutola, 2000 Olympics 800m gold medalist, three-time 800m World Champion and seven time 800m Indoor World Champion, while speaking to the media in the capacity of the international event ambassador for the TCS World 10 K Bangalore, to be run on Sunday, May 19.
Citing her own example, Maria said she started out as a swimmer but had to give it up as her parents could not afford to pay the coaching fees. She then began playing football, where she was noticed by a famous literary figure, who spoke to her about athletics and then sought permission from her father to begin her training.
At the TCS World 10K Bangalore Motorkit pic at Kanteerava Stadium (L to R), Vivek B Singh (Jt. MD, Procam International),Kenyan Athlete Daniel Salel, Christian Saffer Director- Marketing, BMW, International Event Ambassador Maria Mutola, Defending Champion Helah Kiprop from Kenya, Irvette VAn Zyl (Republic of South Africa) and Scott Overall (Great Britain).
"It was extremely difficult for me to train in Mozambique as there were no synthetic tracks, but the opportunity to travel to the Seoul Olympics was an eye opener. I realized I would have to work much harder if I hoped to make it to the top. It was after Seoul that I got a scholarship to the US, which changed my life," said Maria.
"My years of hard work began paying off as I won the World Championships, yet the Olympic gold eluded me and it required a lot of mental strength and support for me to keep on working hard. The Olympic victory in 2000 was definitely the greatest moment of my life."
Mutola has now taken up coaching and is currently coaching South African middle-distance runner Caster Semenya. Speaking about coaching she said, "It feels great to be a coach, while it is a bit easier than being on the track, the satisfaction derived from seeing your disciples getting better and faster is very fulfilling."