There’s practicing what you preach and then there’s what Shelton D’Costa does. When the physical education teacher isn’t spreading his knowledge to children at Cambridge International School, he’s heaving a discus or shot put as far as he can.
After spending his day teaching and coaching kids in various sports, D’Costa lives the life of an athlete. He trains hard, travels around the globe and competes against hundreds in the Masters Athletics circuit – international competitions for veteran athletes aged 35 and above – all in the name of love for athletics.
The Kerala-born 45-year-old represents his home country of India and has already bagged nine medals, including eight gold, in the two years since joining the circuit.
Despite his impressive success, D’Costa returns to his day job after every meet, back to a normal life of juggling work and family with his passion.
“To be honest, this isn’t on the glamorous side of athletics,” D’Costa told Sport360.
D’Costa’s international journey began two years ago, but his passion for athletics goes back to his younger days. In college, he trained with a national coach and went on to break records at the university level before representing his state in national competitions. He didn’t get on the podium at national competitions, but reaching that level in a country with over a billion people was an achievement in itself.
Still, D’Costa’s athletics career came to a natural end and initially, he moved on to the hotel industry, only to realise three years later that he wanted to help others go further in the sport than he ever could.
“My parents didn’t want me to be a teacher because my mother was already a teacher. I worked in the hotel industry, but I always knew this is what I wanted to do,” he said.
“I prefer coaching to teaching. Teaching for me, I’m really not able to relate with teaching cricket or football or basketball. I prefer giving myself to what I know. All I know is athletics and athletics is what I breathe.”
What D’Costa didn’t know was that his career would have a second life – and that too a successful one.
It began with D’Costa qualifying for the Indian team by ranking third in the country’s selection, despite not having much time at all to prepare and train.
“I had gone with only a two-week notice, so I knew I could do better with further practice,” he said. “I just worked out after that for all these international competitions.”
D’Costa’s training wasn’t without challenges, however.
Dubai may have facilities aplenty, but finding one which suited his discipline was the biggest hurdle to his improvement.
“The only challenge I’m facing is, as a thrower, it’s very difficult for me to execute my throws on the grounds here in Dubai, because most of the grounds are turf,” he said. “They wouldn’t allow discus or shot put to land on the turf because it will ruin it. To find a place like that was a big challenge.“Luckily my principle hooked me up with a ground at GEMS Modern Academy.
It wasn’t easy, but D’Costa’s training paid off as in his first international competition at the 32nd Ritzbury Mercantile Athletics Championships in Sri Lanka, he broke two meet records with a distance of 38.20 metres in discus and 11.84m in shot put.
With funding from GEMS to compete across the globe, he followed that up with a strong performance in the Australian Masters Athletics meet in October, 2015, winning gold in discus, shot put and throws pentathlon, along with bronze in outdoor pentathlon.
More gold came in the 19th Asia Masters Athletics Championships in Singapore, with D’Costa earning the top spot on the podium in discus in May of last year.
Last month, D’Costa added his seventh and eighth gold when he reigned supreme in discus and shot put in New Zealand.
Unfortunately for D’Costa, he also left Whanganui last month with a hairline fracture, suffered on his final throw, putting him in crutches for the immediate future.
The injury puts him in doubt for the World Masters Games, taking place in Auckland in late April, but D’Costa still has his sights set on being a world champion in discus.
In his mind, three or four metres separate him from the top, considering his personal results as compared to previous winners.
To fully commit himself, D’Costa is considering taking some time off from teaching to raise his level of training. Regardless of what he achieves going forward though, D’Costa has already proven those who teach, can also do.