The Nattika Sports Academy, one of the three finalists for the Manorama Sports Club Award 2022, can be likened to a 'mini gold mine'. Athletes from the Thrissur-based academy have so far brought home as many as 86 gold medals from various national-level meets. The year 2022 was a remarkable one for the academy. Long jumper Ancy Sojan, arguably the most successful athlete to have risen through the ranks of the Nattika Sports Academy, represented India at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Severe financial constraints were not a barrier to the Nattika Sports Academy in setting high goals and striving to achieve them. C V Sanoj alias Kannan, who ekes out a living by driving an autorickshaw, is the chief coach at the academy while Ancy's father E T Sojan is the manager. Although the academy's account is in the red, its shelves and racks are brimming with gold medals.
A year to remember
In June 2022, Ancy catapulted herself to be the best female long jumper in India by winning the gold with an outstanding performance of 6.44m at the Qosanov Memorial athletics meet in Almaty, Kazakhstan. It was a proud moment for both the Nattika Sports Academy and Ancy as it was her first medal at an international meet. In July, Ancy went on to represent India at the Commonwealth Games, where she narrowly missed out on a place in the finals.
Sprinter P D Anjali also made the academy proud by securing gold medals at national championships in 2022.
Established in 2014 at the Government Fisheries Higher Secondary School in Nattika, the academy focuses on unearthing young talents and honing their skills at grassroots levels. The academy has been running on the meagre income of Kannan. He still sets aside an amount from his earnings to provide free training and food to the aspiring athletes. Both Kannan and Sojan had to borrow money from their friends and family members to keep the academy afloat. Initially, the children were forced to run barefoot as the academy could not buy running shoes with spikes on them. Yet, they were able to amass gold medals at state-level meets. The Nattika Sports Academy has definitely set an example worth emulating.