July 24, Chennai: Santhi Soundarajan, who won a silver medal in the 800m at the Doha Asian Games in 2006 works today as a daily wager in a brick kiln for just Rs 200 per day. Her career in sports ended after a failed gender test.
The Asian Games medalist was stripped of her women’s 800 metres silver medal in the 2006 Asian Games after failing a gender test and was admitted to hospital two years later following a suicide bid.
Following the ignominy of a gender test, the manner in which Santhi’s name and achievements were erased from the athletics records, Santhi lost all hope to the point of attempting suicide. “I’ve been on this job three months now. In the initial days, I could do nothing with my hands after work. I could neither eat nor use my fingers to grasp any object. They would be tender and swollen. The situation is no better now,” says the athlete from Kathakuruchi, Pudhukkottai in Tamil Nadu.
“My hands ache and burn all the time,” Santhi told the newspaper. “The skin has peeled off, there are boils all over”.
Santhi, like many Indian track and field athletics, took up sport to find a secure job and escape grinding poverty.
Santhi said she was forced to take up this work after her appeals to the distict authorities for job fell on deaf ears. “My life is very difficult as I earn only Rs 200 working in a brick factory,” Santhi said.
One of the five children of brick-kiln labourer parents, she overcame malnutrition as a child to become a middle-distance runner. Her parents, Soundararajan and Manimegalai, too work at the brick unit run by her uncle for a collective daily pay of Rs 500.