Kombodinjal basks in Beenamol, Binu's glory
The tiny village of Kombodinjal in Kerala's Idukki district suddenly finds itself catapulted on to the international stage, thanks to two gold and two silver medals won by K M Beenamol and her brother K M Binu at the just-concluded Asian Games, and the celebrations have not died down since.
Now the villagers are dreaming of the glory that once belonged to Payyoli, which produced one of the finest Indian athletes, P T Usha.
"Now it is time for the Idukki Express to whistle past the Indian athletic tracks, once dominated by the Payyoli Express [P T Usha]," quips a sport enthusiast giving voice to the feeling of the villagers.
Most of the people of Kombodinjal proudly feel that the medals won by Beenamol and Binu are theirs too.
At every gathering the discussion centres around the duo and their posters have been put up on the sidewalls.
The farmer family from which K M Beenamol, who won two gold and a silver medal at the Busan Asian Games, and K M Binu, a silver medallist at the Games, come is now expecting an Olympic medal from their children.
"A medal at the next Olympics will be what we all like to hear about," said the proud parents the two middle distance runners.
Kombodinjal, about 20 km from the nearest town of Adimaly in Idukki district, is a little known place in high ranges inhabited by farmers most of whom migrated from the plains a few decades back.
The Kalayathunguzhi family of Beenamol and Binu also came from Kottayam district about three decades back to this area, then thick forests, where the peasants fought with elephants and wild beasts to cultivate pepper, coffee, cardamom and the like.
It has been the most memorable week for the village, with crackers, sweets, prayers and calls from ministers and other VIPs. It would continue for at least some more time. Kerala sports minister K Sudhakaran has taken the lead in sanctioning the repair and tarring of the two-km road from the bus stop to Beena's house, for which the locals had been asking for long. The locals have appropriately named the road as 'Beenamol Road'.
"We are really happy and thankful to all those who prayed for our children," says Beenamol's mother Kunjamma, adding they are organising a special prayer session today with all the neighbours at their home to thank the Almighty.
The pebble-filled church ground in Kerala's Idukki district, where K M Beenamol and her brother K M Binu took their first laps to glory in the international arena, and the people await their visit.
They have lined up grand receptions for them, though it is yet to be confirmed when Beena and Binu would return after the busy lap of felicitations.
The celebrations started when the first message came from Binu in Busan after Beenamol won gold in the 800 metres. The next day Beenamol reported her brother's silver medal performance in the 800 metres. And then silver in the 400 metres by Beenamol and then her gold in 4x400 metres relay... good news kept pouring in from Busan, keeping the Kalayathunguzhi family and their neighbours and dear ones on the top of the world.
Following in the footsteps of their elder brother Biju, who is now settled as a businessman, Beena took to sports at a very tender age. But it was at the Parathode High School that her talent was first noticed by coach Raju Paul. From then on, it has been a march of untiring training and success through the likes of coach Purushothaman at G V Raja Sports School at Thiruvananthapuram from 1990 to 1996.
She shot to fame with the National School Meet in 1991 and Asian Juniors meet in 1992, then national records and international meets up to Sydney Olympics, where she entered the semi-final leg.
At Jakarta, she broke sprint queen P T Usha's record in the 400 metres.
But younger brother Binu was a bit late in waking up to his talent. Once he was `spotted' by coach Purushothaman during the Plus Two course, he grew fast to win a gold in the 800 metres at the Wworld Railway meet in 2001.
Both were then fine-tuned under the Russian coach, who the family and sprinters greatly value. "Their coach had great expectations from them and we too believed so," their father Matthew said.
Their parents now look forward to sharing some time with Beenamol and Binu.
"We rarely get a chance to meet and spend time with the kids as they make flash visits from strenuous practice," the parents informed.