At the age of 82, Maria Imelda De Sousa from Duler, Mapusa still does what she has always liked doing post retirement – participating in sports especially running events. Besides also being a writer, she participates in quiz competitions held across the state. NT BUZZ catches up with the octogenarian to talk about her journey from being an educationist to an athlete
SHERAS FERNANDES | NT BUZZ
Our elders are often advised to take care of themselves, restricting them from running or doing household chores, but 82 year-old, Maria Imelda De Sousa has proven that age is just a number. She is among the few senior citizens that are not just standing on their feet but also brought moments of pride for Indians, participating in several state and national level sport events. Since her childhood, though not into sports, Maria was actively involved in extra-curricular activities in school and college. But it was only after she retired in 1994 that she decided to become an athlete.
Maria was an educationist for several decades for which she travelled from her home town in Mapusa to Nuvem in South Goa. Soon after retirement she learnt about Veteran Athletes Association which is now known as Masters Athletic Federation of India. She enrolled herself as a life time member of this Association and then on has left no stone unturned, participating in road runs and races that she was confident about. Maria expresses that the older she grew the urge to run also increased. “It depends from person to person as to how comfortable you are to participate in such events.”
Till date she has participated in several road runs, 100 metres, 200 metres, 400 metres and 800 metres held at state and national level and has over 50 certificates and achievements to her credit – in 1987 she won the first place in 100 metre run and second place in 200 metre run organised by Sports Authority of India. In 1989 she participated in Jawaharlal Nehru Centenary Run, Margao. In 1991 she participated in the Shri Dayanad Bandodkar Birth Anniversary run. She has also participated in All Goa Sugandh Memorial Athletic Meet, State level Veterans Athletic Championship, Sadbhavana run and race, State Level Veteran’s Athletic Championship, 19th National Athletic Championship, Kanpur, 20th National Veterans Athletic Championship at Thane, Maharashtra, 1st West zone Veterans Athletic Meet, National Veterans Athletic Championship at Bhopal, 11th Asian Veterans Athletic Championship, Bangalore amongst others. In 2000 Maria represented India in the 11th Asian Veterans Athletic Championship and secured the first place in 400 metres relay and second place in 400 metres run in Bangalore. At all these events she not only won a prize but also brought a sense of pride and happiness among people who feel that age is a hurdle to achieve something in life.
Apart from the running bit, Maria has a strong hold over languages such Hindi, English, Portuguese, French and Marathi. With the aim of bringing out her knowledge and passing it on to the younger generation she also writes for Church bulletins and participates in quiz competitions held across Goa.
In an era when the society was male dominated Maria ventured into sports breaking the conventions that not many ladies would get into such things. “Back then when I got into sports there were very few women, which over the years has improved. Although over time many women have taken up to sports, there are more ladies from outside Goa than from our state itself,” says Maria.
Always looking for another platform to run, she is now preparing for the Asian meet that is to happen in Goa soon. Her advice for the younger generation is: “Instead of wasting your time on gadgets one should spare time for sports activities.”