Fri, 28 Feb, 2020

Malleswari chasing golden Olympic dream through her academy

28th January 2020, 03:00 Hrs

 BASIL SYLVESTER PINTO

PANAJI 

Padma Shri Dr Karnam Malleswari, the celebrated former weightlifter has a big dream. Through hard-work she has realized many medals on the international arena in her discipline and accolades as well. But she has a promise to be kept. She wants to realize an unfulfilled dream. A dream of passing on the baton to the next generation in her quest for the elusive Olympic Gold. 

The much-decorated Malleswari was in attendance as a motivational speaker at the 13th DD Kosambi Festival of ideas 2020 at Dinanath Mangeshkar Kala Mandir, Kala Academy, Panaji on Monday. 

The first Indian woman to win a medal at the Olympics, a bronze in the 69 kg category at the Sydney 2000, two decades since she lives a dream to fulfil a Gold. And that dream is through her academy. 

Malleswari recalls, back then, during the Sydney 2000 Olypmics the focus of the media was on hockey, as there was no guarantee on her that she could go far. But only when there was a certainty that she was to bring home a medal, the media shifted their focus to her. “If we can prove ourselves, we do not need to run after others, but people will follow you,” she stated. 

Malleswari  recounted that the gold was hers for the taking if only her coach played smart. “At the Sydney Olympics, there was tension to create history, mentally I knew I had to win a medal and I knew I was capable of that as I was already twice world champion.  I had the confidence (to go the distance), but there is always pressure. But when you enter the stage, you get into the zone, and the only voice you hear is that of your coach. You do your lift and go, least bothered about the other competitors. I missed the Gold by 2 kg. If the coach had told me to lift 132, 135kg the Gold would be ours. It is the decision taken by the coach, and not the player,”  she narrated. 

Coming from a middle-class family, in a rural district of Andhra Pradesh, Malleswari stressed that family played a centrifugal role in her success as a sportswoman. “Family support matters a lot, particularly from where I hail from. I am one of five sisters. In South India especially, 33 years ago, when a girl attains marriageable age, she is told to settle down instead of becoming a burden to her family. This situation is prevalent even today, but back then it was even stronger.  But I was fortunate that my mother’s outlook was very different. She felt that girls too can stand on their own feet and chose whatever field they desire given that they put in their 100 per cent efforts and make a name for themselves. “

Interestingly while her father was more inclined that Malleswari’ focus lie  on academics, her relatives ridiculed what is a girl doing in weightlifting, and  what would happen if her hands and feet get broken, who would marry her. It was her mother who believed that her daughter could make career in the sport and lent full support. 

“I tell girls today, that if you have your mother’s support or that of your family, do not look back but follow your dreams,” Malleswari went on. 

The champion former weightlifter also declared that sports like athletics, weightlifting, wrestling and boxing are rural. “These sports require tremendous hard-work. Apart from physical strength, mental strength is equally important because it takes up around 10-12 hours of your time daily in training. For physical exercise in the gymnasium, one does 10-15 push-ups, 10-15 repetitions of the dumbbell which is enough,” she stated. 

“But when I used to train; my coach used to make me at one time do three repetitions of a six set 360 kg and dead lift 175 kg,” she recalled.

Post retirement, Malleswari knew that weightlifting and her would stay inseparable. Besides, she wanted to live her unfulfilled dream in her wards.  And thus she set up an Academy.  Initially though, she received no backing from the Government for land. But from her savings through the Olympic bronze she had won, and later through the Central Governmet’s financial backing, she was enabled to buy land to put her plan for an Academy to motion. 

“I will have 300 young sportspersons under my competition and training centre which will be the world’s best. I will give guarantee whoever wants to be weightlifter, the gates of my academy will always stay open. But for that, they should have the fueled passion to be a weightlifter, put in the hard-work so that we can get  back the Olympic medals,” Malleswari declared.

She rues the fact, that back when she started 35 years ago, to now, the situation for the Olympic medal quest remains the same, frugal in a 1 billion strong nation. 

“The main reason for the lack of medals at the Olympics is that the grassroot level infrastructure and coaching is not there.  In our days, there was no proper gymnasium.  Only two years ago, the Andhra government invited me for a talent hunt and I realized the situation worsened from 35 years ago. I even met our District Collector and asked him what is he doing and where will players come from?,” Malleswari divulged. 

“When we realize one world champion or Olympian or Asian Games champion, a lot of money and sponsors come in for that sportsperson.  But what about the grassroot level? In rural areas, there are children who want to be an athlete or a weightlifter. But there is no ground or weightlifting hall to train. If they want to go to another State to practice, where will the money come from.  99 per cent talent gets neglected because of this, unlike in China where there are training facilities at every nook and cranny,” she added.

“The Commonwealth Games was held in New Delhi in 2010 and a lot of infrastructure was created. But why isn’t it being utilized,” Malleswari questioned.

“My vision is that there should be sports centres for every individual event everywhere, then you will realize children training at these centres and from where the products of medals will come,” she opined. 

“Twenty years have passed since my last medal at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, and in my entire career I have created many national and international records which still stand. This saddens me. Records are made to be broken. If I love a weightlifter, the next generation should come and break my records. Then only I will be happy. I want people to talk more about weightlifting, a culture to be created.  I do not want to be alone. I want to be among 100 Malleswari which will only happen with infrastructure.” 

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