Born in abject poverty, this Chennai cop is marathoning his way to Tokyo Olympics


Express News Service

CHENNAI: In a world dominated by luxury sports brands, 25-year-old P Naganathan strived to become a professional runner training barefoot. Poverty did not slow him down, but only hardened his determination. Today, Naganathan has been selected to represent India at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. 

A police constable now, Naganathan had worked as construction labourer on weekends and vacations to help his family meet ends. His father Pandi, a farm hand, and mother Panchavarnam, have four children. “When I began running races in school, I couldn’t afford shoes. So, I ran barefoot. When I made it to district sports meet, my school gifted me a pair of shoes,” he says.

Naganathan will represent India in the 4*400 relay, along with Arokiyaraj from Trichy, Mohammed Anas from Kerala and Amose Jacob from Delhi. Naganathan studied BA History as he could not afford the cost of engineering education. “I used to work part time to cover college fees. At the end of the semester, my fees would be reimbursed considering my performance in sports.” 

In 2017, Naganathan got into the police as an Armed Reserve Constable on sports quota. Naganathan made his name by winning gold at the All India Police Meet in 2019. Later that year, he won the CM’s trophy at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.

In February, he participated in the Federation Cup in Patiala and came second, after which he got an invite to be part of the Indian team. He was selected after 45 days of training. Amid all his loans, EMIs, and financial burdens, the news of his selection came as a surprise.

“Not in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would get an opportunity to participate in the Olympics. I owe much of my success to my police coach Prabhakaran, the Chennai Police Sports Incharge, and sub inspectors Paul Dominic and Sivalingam,”  he said.

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