Thulirkal: Running with Passion, Abirami Shanmugaratnam!

CTYA’s Blog has started a new Feature on Fridays, Thulirkal. Thulirkal meaning bud reflects the young Tamil youth we will be featuring. These youth are the buds of our community, and are growing into to strong, achieving young men and women! Each week we will feature a Tamil youth of the week. For more information or to suggest a youth to feature, please feel free to email us at!

This week, we’ve brought you, Abirami Shanmugaratnam!

Abirami is an avid athlete, who excels in various sports. She has demonstrated athletic ability within Track and Field, all while displaying leadership qualities, excellent sportsmanship, and a commitment towards promoting a positive, and healthy lifestyle. In addition to track and field, she has participated, and excelled in badminton, rugby, cross-country, ice-hockey, netball and soccer. She has also attended the Canadian Tamil Sports Association track and field meet, and has held the title of female champion consecutively over the last 5 years. In her school, she has won Most Valued Player, and Junior Female Athlete of the Year. At the Ontario Track and Field Association, she has placed first in several competitions, and has placed 3rd in the Toronto District College Athletic Association’s Track and Field Championships. She is also a sports coach for the Seelan Rangers sports club and a soccer coach for the Canadian Tamil Sports Association.

In addition to excelling athletically, she has worked towards promoting a healthy lifestyle by volunteering with the Health Action Committee, and is a student manager with a blood donor clinic. She serves as a model for other students to live by. In addition to her athletic achievements, she has contributed over 500 hours of community service, and has excelled academically in the International Baccalaureate Program, having attained her diploma. Her hard-working personality, positive attitude, commitment to sports, and overall achievements make her an inspiration to her peers.
Thank you for joining us today. So, let’s get warmed up. Ok, now don’t think, just say what first comes to mind. 1, 2, 3…

1. Favourite sports Team? Toronto Raptors, Oklahoma City Thunder, Chicago Bulls (NBA fanatic)
2. One food you could survive on for the rest of your life? Lasagna
3. Appa pillai or Amma pillai? Appa pillai
4. Favourite ice-cream flavor? Cookies and Cream
5. Heath or Wealth? Definitely Health

CTYA Blog Team: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Abi: I am a second year undergraduate student at McMaster University in the Honours Kinesiology program. I am also an aspiring Kinesiologist and this has been a dream of mine ever since I was a kid. Currently I am the McMaster Varsity Mens soccer strength and conditioning coach as well as being a varsity track athlete for McMaster competing in 60m, 300m and sprint relays. Proud to say, I hold a McMaster school record as a part of the relay team. I would strongly consider myself an ambitious student-athlete. I wish I could say more, but I have been well introduced.

CTYA Blog Team: You’re a great role model to young Tamil girls in terms of pursing your dreams and excelling in athletics, a field that is commonly shunned for girls, how did you overcome obstacles in order to pursue your passion?

Abi: Running was something I developed passion for as a young child and it soon became a part of me. It was my identity. I have to admit I did get criticism along the way such as Tamil girls shouldn’t pursue such grand endeavors, this is not the right field for you, you should focus on your academics and so forth but I didn’t let this negative criticism stop me. In fact, it fueled me to achieve more. I wanted to destroy that cultural stigma and open avenues to Tamil females further down the road so I continued to pursue what I most loved doing, sprinting. I trained harder, I persevered throughout all challenges and most importantly I went in search of opportunity. I never gave up. This is probably what is driving me until this day, along with my passion to run.

CTYA Blog Team: What is something you live by and motivates you to continue to work hard everyday?

Abi: I would consider myself a very motivated person in life and one of the quotes I wake up to everyday is from one of my greatest idols of all time, Michael Jordan: “Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen”. Always go in search of opportunity because I would consider my gift of sprinting a god given talent. But although it is a talent of mine, where talent fails to work hard, this is when hard work must do its part. So, my ambition to become a faster sprinter is fueled by my hard work and in order to do this, I seek opportunity.

CTYA Blog Team: Sportsmanship is a word that many people talk about, what does it mean to you?

Abi: I would consider sportsmanship as the ‘Golden Rule’ of all sports, in that you must treat the sport and those you play with whether it is on the court, the field or the track with respect, dignity and fairness. In the field of sport, I have encountered several athletes, but if its one thing I cannot tolerate are sore losers and I feel that everyone should be reminded that sportsmanship is key to sports as this not only has an impact on athletes, but also spectators.

CTYA Blog Team: If you could go back in time and change one thing of your life, what would you change?

Abi: If there is one thing I could change about my life, I would definitely have had better training for track as a child because a lot of your speed is developed as a child. I was unaware of what proper training for track was until I was in grade ten whereas up until then, I was running on natural raw speed and passion.

CTYA Blog Team: What’s some advice you would give youth to stay healthy and active?

Abi: Staying active and healthy should be a necessary part of everyone’s lifestyle, in fact it is my lifestyle because it is indeed connected to a positive attitude and better focus in school. If you are striving to reach a “healthy and active lifestyle” I would recommend goal setting and start with the little steps such as eating healthy whether it involves you cutting back on junk food, limiting the amount of times you eat out at fast food places or even eating an apple a day. In terms of staying active, this can start with small steps such as going out for a jog everyday, getting a gym membership or I would recommend joining a sports team. But the key to a healthy and active lifestyle is goal setting and eventually these keystones in life will be become engrained in you as an individual.

CTYA Blog Team: What are you most proud about our Tamil culture, history and traditions?

Abi: Growing up in Scarborough, which I would call my small Eelam, I have been surrounded by my Tamil culture and traditions, which have become a part of me as a young individual. If its one thing I’m the most proud about my community for is their constant sharing of cultural knowledge whether it is through staged performances, traditional classes and even through Black July where everyone is open to the history of Tamils. I can proudly say that Tamils have strongly made a mark in Canadian soil and continue to do so and to be able to identify myself as being a Tamil-Canadian is something I am truly proud of.

CTYA Blog Team: Finish the sentence. “To me, Tamil youth are..”

Abi: To me, Tamil youth are the future of tomorrow and the founding pillars to preserving our cultural identity.

CTYA Blog Team: Anything else you would like to add?

Abi: I have recently started a Track Blog through my journey throughout track and field, so if you’d like to know more, check it out:


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