In the first week of October, Vithya Ramraj, an athlete from Tamil Nadu who was running in the heats of the 400-metre hurdles at the Asian Games, equalled a 39-year-old record held by PT Usha.
The previous month, speaking to Johanna Deeksha, Ramraj had credited a relatively unknown figure with inspiring her to pursue athletics: her physical education teacher in her school in Coimbatore. “We would simply play around on the ground, but this teacher saw something in us that we did not see ourselves,” Ramraj said. “My teacher told our mother that she was certain that we had the abilities to compete professionally.”
In Common Ground, Deeksha explores the lives and work of these unheralded figures who help India’s athletes and sportspersons take early steps that in some cases lead to great achievements. She found that they struggle with insufficient resources and make great personal sacrifices to be able to serve their students.
“Sports is not always considered as crucial as other subjects,” Deeksha said. “Through this story I was able to meet some remarkable sports educators who are going out of their way to nurture sports talent in the country.”
She added, “When we celebrate medals, we often forget that a section of those medal winners come from very challenging backgrounds and the teachers they meet in their schools make all the difference.”