K P Mammu, the master athlete

Debkumar Bhadra

Born on December 12, 1973 in Mannar Ghat village of rural South Andaman, K P Mammu, ever since the age of 12 Yrs, had been winning accolades and medals alike in the field of athletics both at the state as well as national level. Recently, I caught up with the master athlete, wherein he opened up to his past, future plans and the long cherished dream of winning a medal for his country at the international level.

Recalling his journey, Mammu says after completing schooling from Govt Senior Secondary School Mannar Ghat, he joined Andaman & Nicobar Police Fire Service as Constable for a living in the year 1999. Being part of the uniformed force, he is required hence maintains a level of physical fitness through routine exercise, drills and occasional sporting events. After school days, he seldom took part in competitive event, untill a departmental circular broke the routine.

While posted at Katchal Island in the remote Nicobar district in 2015, he received an official circular seeking entries for State Open Athletics Championship proposed to be held at the historic Netaji Stadium at Port Blair. Mammu took part in the event and won a Gold in the 200m and Silver in the 100m Sprint for the A&N Police team. This was a turning point, he says. The sportsman, which was lying dormant for quite some time, not only found a fresh lease of life, it got tremendous boost with twin podium finishes.

Thereafter he attended a 90 day coaching camp orgainsed by Athletics Association of Andaman & Nicobar Islands at Port Blair, which apart from imparting formal training gave him his first coach Mr Aboobaker Siddique, who later played a major role in shaping his athletic career.

In the year 2016, Mammu was part of the A&N Contingent which participated in the 56th Senior Athletics Championship held at Hyderabad. This was his first stint at the national level, but could not make it to the podium even once. The event was orgainsed on synthetic tracks, which was a totally new concept for him. No surprise that he could not cope up with the event-day switch-over, thus returned with an empty hand, but not without a learning experience.

Taking part in the 39th National Masters Athletics Championship held at Bangalore in the year 2018, Mammu took to the synthetic track in style. He clocked 11.23s in the 100m sprint winning Gold and created a new National Record in his name. He also won a Silver Medal in the 200m (23.64s) event.

40th National Masters Athletics Championship held at Guntur in Andhra Pradesh early this year saw a further improvement in his performance. He won Gold Medals in 200m (24.3s) and 100m (11.8s) sprint. The icing in the cake moment came from long jump. He not only helped himself to a rich haul of three Gold Medals from the event, with 6.22m leap, he broke a 22 year record and created a new National Record, second one in a row.

To his surprise, Mammu got a rousing welcome on his return to the islands. The Pradhan of Gram Panchayat Mannar Ghat, O Bashir, along with few others from his village received the Master Athlete on his arrival at Port Blair VSI Airport. The Chief Secretary, A&N Administration Chetan B Sanghi also felicitated Mammu for his achievements in the track and field events at the national level. He credits his performance to the support he received from his superiors in A&N Police Fire Service, Pradhan of his village, the Athletic Association of the islands, fellow players with whome he practice and his family members specifically his mother, wife and two children Tasneem Jahan and Rukshar Jahan for all the good wishes.

When asked to reflect on the future, specifically the coming generation vis-à-vis athletics in A&N Islands, Mammu shares an interesting experience. While waiting at the boarding gate along with 14 athletes from these islands enroute to participate in the 15th National East Zone Championship (under 19) to be held at Salt lake Kolkata, he got a phone call which said the event has been postponed for 10 days. With the concurrence of Athletics Association of ANI and the parents of the participating players, they decided to go ahead. On reaching Kolkata 10 days in advance, Mammu to his delight, found a SAI stadium in the vicinity had synthetic track. After several round of persuasion, SAI allowed his team to practice on the synthetic track for 8 days, for a fee, which he says, he paid from his pocket without a second thought.

The postponement which was seen as a set-back, turned a blessing in disguise. Taking full advantage of the facility, the players utilized the spare time sweating it out on the track. As if a fairy tale, their hard work bore fruit almost instantly. For the 1st time in the history of track and field event, A&N Islands under 19 team won a medal at the national level. The team returned with a Silver in the (1000m) Mid Relay event.

Mammu also mentions Khelo India, program introduced by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Govt of India which aims at reviving the sports culture at the grass-root level by building a strong framework for all sports and establish India as a great sporting nation. The A&N Islands cannot lag behind. Players, who had only theoretical knowledge of synthetic tracks, if they can bring medal with just 8 days of practice on synthetic track, they certainly have the potential to make it even bigger.

Seeking infrastructure facility for development of athletics in the islands, Mammu requests the Honb’le Lt Governor of the islands to consider creating a 400m synthetic track for the islands future generation. If a synthetic track is made available for regular practice, performance of islands athletes will see tremendous improvement. They would be better equipped to compete with their mainland counterparts and bring laurels in return.

Sunday, 17 February, 2019