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Age is no barrier to break records, says 72 year old Akila

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Akila Thirunayagi Sriseyananthapavan brought home the gold medal in 1500 metres clocking eight minutes and 38 seconds, a silver medal in 5000 metres, and went on to secure the bronze medal in 800 metres in women’s running event at the 22 nd Asia Masters Athletic Championship held in the Philippines in November last year. All this she did at the age of 72… and barefoot.

At an age when many of her friends are slowing down, Akila from Mulliyawalai, Mullativu, is only speeding up. She says she wants to break new running records.

“I want to compete in as many international and national competitions as possible. People tell me that I can even run in the Olympics. So that’s what I want to do,” Akila told the Daily News.

Akila has come a long way braving many hardships. She was only 31 when her husband died in an accident. As a single mother to two toddlers at the time, she had a lot on her plate. She said God Vairavar and her work was her greatest strength.

The former prison officer has bagged medals in competitions held in countries including

Thailand and Singapore, and even broken records at national events. Now when people ask to see her medals, she wears them around her neck with great pride.

“I only started running seriously at 48 when I was working as a prison officer,” Akila said adding that she was also a competitive athlete at school.

Most runners train hard to achieve what Akila has accomplished. Akila said that she gets all her training while doing day-to-day activities including farmwork, which she took up after retiring from her job.

“I also do housework, cycle, and even work at the (Hindu) temple. This is all the training I have, and that has worked for me very well,” she said adding that this is how she is hoping to prep for future international competitions.

However, training is not the only thing that an athlete needs. Competing in international competitions can drain your pockets. Akila’s meagre income, unfortunately, does not cut, and she must look for other sources to fund her.

She needed around Rs. 350,000 to go to the Philippines for tickets, food, and other important expenses. Her savings only made up around half of that sum, so she had to take out a bank loan. So, when she went to the Philippines her eyes were on the prize because there was so much at stake. That’s when she decided to run barefoot.

“When you are barefoot you harness the energy from Mother Earth. That’s why I ran barefoot,” Akila said. When she won medal after medal, photos of her running barefoot went viral on social media.

People congratulated her, and the foreign affairs minister Ali Sabry called her an inspiration on X (formerly Twitter). On her return from the Philippines, the Mullaitivu District Secretariat welcomed her in a special honoring event.

Akila’s photos were also used for advertising products at least on one occasion, unfortunately without her consent. “People call me and tell me they have seen my photo advertising a milk product. They never contacted me. I did not know of it until people told me about it,” Akila said.

Unfazed by barriers that come her way, Akila is determined to speed up.

“Age is not a problem,” Akila said laughing. “The older I get, the more records I break.”

The post Age is no barrier to break records, says 72 year old Akila appeared first on DailyNews.

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