They Called Her ‘Fats’- Paro Anand (Part 8)

The jibes and comments still came sporadically. Some girls passed comments that she was turning into a boy, the way her arms rippled with muscles. But they didn’t bother Fatima at all now. She was proud of her muscles. They were won after a lot of sweat and pain and effort. Gradually, seeing her go from one success to another, the comments turned to grudging admiration.

From a passing fancy now, the mystical javelin became an obsession with Fatima, now fourteen and bulging with biceps.

And Fatima too became an obsession with her games teacher. They would train two or three times a day and sometimes the girl would pack in an extra session by herself. She had learned, with her mentor’s help, not to let anyone’s comments about her, or her unfeminine appearance bother her. She loved the javelin and for that she needed those muscles. She wore them like a badge of honor.

One night, when Mrs. Whitbread couldn’t keep the excitement from her voice about Fatima’s unparalleled talent and her love for her, one of her sons suggested, “Why don’t we adopt her, Mom, you love her so much?’ said with so much conviction, not malice. The older woman smiled and looked at the rest of her family.

And so it happened. Fatima, the problem child, the disruptive influence, at the age of fourteen, finally got what most of us are born with, what we take for granted. At the age of fourteen, Fatima finally got a family and a surname to call her own.

And she went on to live up to that name and make her new-found family proud to have her in their midst.

Fatima Whitbread went on to win an Olympic bronze medal and later, in 1986, the World Championship, making five of the six longest throws in history and shattering the world record. Said she, “I stood on the victory stand and listened while they played my national anthem. I was tired and my arm ached, (from injections needed for an ailment she suffered from), but I had never felt better in my life!”

Long ago, a little news item on the sports page of a newspaper told me something of this incredible woman. Since then, I have tried to gather as much information about her as possible. The basic facts of this story are true, with some embellishments and additions to make the fabric of this bio-fiction. Let’s say, it’s conjecture in good faith.
Fatima Whitbread, we salute you.


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