Featured Comments Off on Road cycling National Champion – Naveen John – Part 2 |

Road cycling National Champion – Naveen John – Part 2

Deepthi Velkur continues her conversation with Naveen John about his training and his move to competitive cycling in the second part of the story. 

If you haven’t read the first part then click here 

When did you move from being a recreational cyclist to a competitive cyclist?

It was a couple of years after I picked up collegiate cycling. My friends convinced me to sign up for a race and I went full on – got myself a bike, some racing gear and showed up for the race and I finished the race.

During my time racing in the US, it was never competitive. I just went out there to ride and have fun. I enjoyed the training, being part of the racing action and never went in with the mentality of winning. In 2012, when I came back to India, it all changed. I felt like I was on a mission and I decided – I want to try and be the best.

You’re a 3-time Indian Time-Trial (ITT) champion and the country’s first International pro-cyclist? What does it take for someone to achieve this?

Oh! I get asked this question a lot. Every time at the national championships, I have kids come up and ask – what must I do to become a national champion?

My response is simple – ride your age X 10,000 KM and you will give yourself a shot at becoming a national champion.

Not many like that response because it puts the onus back on them. In India, cyclists are just not doing enough work compared to cyclists abroad. I realized this for myself when in 2016 I was in Australia where I rode with a professional team and saw 18-year kids train so much more than I did. It got me thinking, “Am I putting in the kilometres”?

It’s a paradigm shift that we need here in India where the athletes need to put in a lot more work. A few years ago, you did not have to work too hard to become a national champion. If your closest competitor was doing 8,000 KM at the age of 23-24, you only need 9,000 KM to beat him. Today, however, you need at least 25,000 KM to beat me (kinda cheeky, since I lost my National title this year despite that, but always “long game”).

It’s true that the infrastructural challenges we have in our country can be blamed for the bar being so low in our sport but at the base of it – practice, kilometres in the legs and hours spent on the pedals are key.

Do you take assistance from a Coach to train yourself for nationals?

I started off on my own in 2013. I self-coached trying to figure out the answers along the way but I fell short and ended up in 4th place. One of the team supporters then recommended I get a coach.

Getting a coach can be quite a daunting proposition – all of a sudden, you are accountable to someone else and constantly graded. The thought of putting your physical readiness in someone else’s hand is quite a leap.

Fears aside, I started working with my first coach in 2014 and that changed my life and introduced me to a whole new world of scientific training. I’m a pretty adept self-learner and as I was being coached, I also upped my level of understanding of the human body, sport science and training. I have since moved on to my 2nd coach who is based out of Australia.

Training in cycling is a very objective process and working with a coach who guides your physical progression can free up time to work on other areas of improvement that you constantly need to as an athlete. So far, cyclists in India have always moaned about a lack of good coaches but that scenario is changing today.

Our concluding part can be read here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Deepthi Velkur is a former sprinter who is trying her hand at various sports today. A tennis fanatic, who believes that sleep should never be compromised.

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Training Comments Off on Understand the Maffetone Method |

Understand the Maffetone Method

Deepthi Velkur looks into a popular method that runners around the world are adopting to get leaner and fitter.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit” – Aristotle.

I want to get better. I want to be fitter and leaner. I want to train right without feeling drained out or being injured. I’m sure we have all had these thoughts and questions in our head. Is there a way we can actually achieve this?

The answer is – Yes, we can! The reason for you not seeing any improvements, feeling burnt out or prone to injuries is not only a problem with your training, diet or your shoes. It could be your aerobic base or the lack of it. For an athlete to perform well and overall have good health it is important to have a solid aerobic base. This can be achieved by following the Low-Heart rate training also popularly known as the Maffetone Method.

So what is the Maffetone method?

The MAF Method is a philosophy developed over the course of 40 years by Dr Phil Maffetone which helps individuals take charge of their health and reach their performance potential.

The premise of the method says that by developing your Maximum Aerobic Function(MAF) where you improve your aerobic base, become fat adapted, improving your energy levels, losing body fat, improving athletic performance, minimizing injuries and ramp up your performance potential.

It is a style of training where one focusses mainly on their aerobic running using a heart rate formula of 180- your age. “Most people do not develop good aerobic conditioning as it takes time and one needs to be consistent. Such people end up with poor metabolism and aerobic physiology. In order to build your aerobic fitness, you need to make sure the heart rate does not exceed this threshold and by doing that you’re expending the fat for fuel and not sugar. When you run aerobically you tend to feel energized and don’t have the need to nap or require an energy gel to replenish your carb stores.

Most runners tend to use this method during their base training phase by not allowing their heart rate to spike more than this “aerobic maximum”. You can measure this using a heart rate monitor each time you run so that you don’t exceed the limit and stay 0-10 beats below it. Once the heart rate goes beyond this threshold, the aerobic muscles start to function less efficiently and the anaerobic muscles take over. It’s good to note that Aerobic muscles use body fat and oxygen for energy consumption whereas anaerobic muscles use the glycogen stores within the anaerobic muscle cells which do not last more than 2.5 or 3 mins.

Benefits of using the 180 formula

You have to train at a low heart rate in order to build your aerobic base, a relaxed pace where you are able to make easy conversation. Finding the right heart rate is an individual process. After several evaluations of many athletes, Dr Maffetone came up with this formula to determine an optimal heart rate training zone.

The main benefits of using the 180 formula are that your body is trained to burn more of the stored fat for energy consumption. It also enables you to run, cycle or do other activities much faster over a period of time without overtraining. This happens with sustained practice where your body becomes efficient over time to perform faster with better stamina while maintaining the same training heart rate.

Using the Maffetone Method to build endurance

  • Determine your Maximum Aerobic Threshold: Using the 180 formula, figure out your threshold heart rate
  • Keep a heart rate monitor handy: Get yourself a good heart rate monitor which beeps or vibrates indicating your heart rate has spiked above your aerobic threshold.
  • Train right: Phil Maffetone recommends you to run at your threshold aerobic heart rate. By doing that one trains the aerobic muscles to function at its maximum making you run more efficiently and burning the fat to fuel energy instead of having to rely on the anaerobic muscles. Over time your pace increases while keeping your heart rate below the specified threshold. The training plan should be individualized based on the years of experience as a runner. Do not train in groups as each person’s capabilities are different and vary from one person to another.
  • MAF test: It is necessary to track your progress and course correct along the way. This provides you with the required motivation to push and also to make changes were needed. Always start with a warm-up and run a distance of 5 Km at your maximum aerobic heart rate and record it. Repeat this test at the same time and route every month from now to check how you’ve progressed. You should notice a marked improvement in the MAF timings and subsequently in the race timings as well.
  • A warm-up is must: This is a definite deal breaker with respect to this method of doing a 15min warm-up. We tend to slip warm-ups but by doing that you are spiking up your heart rate and it becomes difficult to bring it down. Hence a gentle warm-up will gradually increase your heart rate and you can see good results.
  • Controlled breathing: By breathing through your nose, you can keep your pace and heart rate under control. You might find it a bit hard at the beginning, but it takes time for the results to show and over time becomes easy to run at slower paces.
  • Maintaining running form and cadence: Running at a slow pace tends to affect your posture and cadence and incorporate one or two workouts after the initial 3 months to work on this.

Challenges and pay-offs

While there are huge followers of this method, there are people who disagree with the method of training. The pace you follow in this method is excruciatingly slow leading to boredom and results take time.

Conclusion: The MAF method covers a lifestyle concept encompassing diet, nutrition, exercise and stress management. Results take about 3-4 months to show. Joining a Maffetone facebook group or a running buddy can help immensely and keeps you motivated to push on.

Be patient, repeat it and the results will follow.

You can read about Ajit Thandur‘s and Pallavi Aga‘s experience with the Maffetone Method.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Deepthi Velkur is a former sprinter who is trying her hand at various sports today. A tennis fanatic, who believes that sleep should never be compromised.

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Motivation Comments Off on Running Nonstop with Ravi Goenka |

Running Nonstop with Ravi Goenka

A running career that spans over 2 decades, Ravi Goenka, the co-founder of the Jaipur Runners club reminisces his running career with Deepthi Velkur.

“And suddenly you know…it’s time to start something new and trust the magic of new beginnings”.

For the past 21 years, Ravi Goenka has certainly had several new beginnings. Starting his running career in 1997, he has clocked many a mile and has now moved on to helping others achieve their fitness goals. Ravi lives by the motto, “take it all one day at a time and enjoy the journey”.

When he’s not running, he spends his time managing his several interests in garments, textiles, retail and dairy. He also spends his time being actively involved with a couple of NGOs who focus on providing education for underprivileged kids. Ravi has been a co-founder with the Jaipur Runners Club (JRC) since 2011 and in this conversation, he tells us how he hopes to help runners achieve their goals.

When did you first pick up running and what inspired you to do so?

Sports has always been a part of my life. I have been running for a long time now and I’m addicted. Today, I just can’t live without my run – it really has intertwined itself into my life and I build my day around it. My first run was the Terry Fox run (Dubai) in 1997 and 7 years later I did my first half-marathon in 2004 and a full marathon in 2005.

Running brings about immense benefits to the health and overall development of a person? In what way has it benefited you?

Discipline. Perseverance. Camaraderie. These are 3 key elements that come to mind when someone asks how does running add value to your life.

Discipline in the way you live – running influences everything from the way you eat to the way you plan your day. Running helps build perseverance and makes you believe that no matter how tough the situation is, just stick with it and you will come through a winner. Every runner’s journey is peppered with stories of how a friend helped them during training or a stranger egged them on a tough uphill course or rubbed down a sore muscle on a tough trail. That’s what running brings out in people – a spirit of community and camaraderie.

When did you decide to start Jaipur runners club? What was the main idea behind starting this club?

Prior to 2010, Jaipur didn’t really have a lot of exposure to marathons and there were only a handful of marathoners. Mr.Mukesh Mishra, CEO – Jaipur Marathon (now the AU Bank Jaipur Marathon) and I were in touch and discussed several ideas on how we can improve the runner’s experience at the event.

We realized that runners did not have a platform to practice together and both of us felt the need to create a space where runners could interact, motivate and inspire each other. That’s how the idea of starting a running club – JRC came about. When it started out, it had a very loose structure for a couple of years, but it has gradually evolved over time and today we have a more formalized structure in place.

Do you think joining a running club enriches a runner’s experience? If yes, why?

A running group/club definitely enhances and enriches a runners experience. When you are part of a group they become close buddies and it’s a huge benefit to run along with them. Right from waking each other up in the morning to sharing training tips to motivating and pushing each other during runs plays a major role in motivating and inspiring you to achieve more.

We also try doing a whole lot of things such as organize monthly runs, bringing in motivational speakers and sports nutrition experts to speak to our runners. We also have a few renowned sports doctors on our panel to help fellow runners. Our objective is to give the runners at the club a wholesome enriching running experience.

Your best and worst race so far? Why?

My best race probably was the 100K race in (took me a tad over 12 hours to complete) Dec 2015. I participated in this run to promote Ultrarunning in Jaipur as the concept was fairly insignificant at the time.

I call it my best not because I ran a 100K but because of the atmosphere, it created. There were hundreds of local runners who ran distances between 4 – 42K alongside me and for a lot of them it was their longest distance they had run until that day. We had many more citizens who lined up at Central Park where the run was happening and created such a festive mood.

The SCMM 2015 (my last officially timed run)run wasn’t my worst but rather a most enlightening race.  I was hoping to break the 3hr45min barrier and things were going great until 32 KM mark where I suddenly cramped up. The situation nearly brought me to tears as I had put in hours of hard work, several months of practice and I was maintaining a decent time in training (3hr50min – 4hr). That brought me a moment of realization that chasing personal bests was making me lose the joy of running. I then made the decision to focus on staying fit and enjoying my runs.

Take us through your training regimen and how do you to stay injury-free?

There are 2 key activities I go through the year that are very important to me – yoga and working out at the gym. In addition, I do a fair bit of cross training between sports like cycling, TT, tennis, cricket and swimming. Since I enjoy sports, I try and put in 15-20 a week on that. Before and after any run session, I do a quick warm-up and cooling-down stretches.

I have had running-related injuries and lay-offs a couple of times over the past 2 decades and this has been mainly due to overtraining. However, I ensured proper rest during the injury and I have been able to get back on my feet quicker.

How do you keep your runners at JRC motivated?

Our job is to get them into a regular habit and once done we have seen runners take off and make considerable progress. We are also constantly evolving are plans and programs to keep the runners on their feet through the year. With the advent of social media, there is no dearth for motivation as there are runners scaling new heights every day. In a city like Jaipur, we are seeing a surge in the number of runners who want to do their FM in 2 years’ time from when they started running or wishing to attempt an Ironman challenge.

At JRC, we organize boot camps focusing on overall fitness, building running techniques, challenges like 10KM over 10 days, 100-day challenge and hill training. We also see a very high newcomer participation in our events and that’s encouraging. We also have a lot of mentoring happening with guidance from experienced runners on plans being made for new comers and helping them with customized plans for speed and endurance training.

 

You ran the 72K Jaipur midnight marathon on Independence Day this year as a dedication to the Indian Soldiers. What were your thoughts at the finish line?

I was happy that I managed to finish the 72K run with ease in spite of having certain challenging factors that can take a toll on your body and mind – visibility at night, humid weather conditions and a full working day at office/factory. It was good to see a few young fellow runners from JRC giving me company and through the run kept pushing each other to finish the race.

12 hours of barefoot running saw two members from JRC participate. Briefly talk about the run and how did you cheer them on to the finish line?

We currently have some very strong runners from Jaipur attempting to run long distances and also being successful at it. Although I was not physically present during the run and could not cheer them on,  we were given regular updates on their progress and were being cheered through a virtual medium.

As a director of JRC, what are your future plans for the club?

We gradually and steadily hope to increase the number of runners in Jaipur and at the same time instilling in them a love for fitness. The goal is also to ensure we are able to have each member run long and strong and stay injury-free. The co-founder of JRC Mr Mukesh Mishra is also very dedicated to the cause and we have a very supportive team in place who are always out there to support all events and runners. To top it all, having a team of dedicated volunteers is a big boon in itself.

Do you think you might reconsider your decision to stop running at official events?

 The SCMM 2015 was my the last official event that I ran. My friends call me the “enlightened Baba” who has attained Nirvana after years of this journey. I enjoy running on my own most of the time as this is my “ME” time and also enjoy runs with friends sometimes. I also try and be part of the runs of JRC which gives me an opportunity to interact with fellow runners. I have been running for so long now that I don’t feel the urge to travel anymore for runs. My businesses take a lot out of me and focus is on my work  for now. Hopefully in a few years, if the goal posts change, I would love to travel again to run in different parts of the world.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Deepthi Velkur is a former sprinter who is trying her hand at various sports today. A tennis fanatic, who believes that sleep should never be compromised.

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Featured Comments Off on Catching the Marathon Bug |

Catching the Marathon Bug

The late bloomer in running, Guest Columnist Sonali Mahant talks about how she caught the marathon bug. 
I started running at the age of 35. It was like a dream to run a Half Marathon once in my life, it had been on my bucket list for quite sometime. The idea of running non stop for 21.0975 kms seemed challenging and I wanted to win the distance with my ability to endure. During my training process, I was extremely motivated by getting to run on a synthetic running track (400mtrs). With each workout into training, I was thrilled to know what a human body could achieve if trained appropriately under a coach. Finding myself breathless at the end of my workout, used to always push me to do more. I felt much more alive than ever before. And for once there was nothing to hold me back, I felt free and light.
The Half Marathon
I ran my first Half Marathon at IDBI New Delhi Marathon and I stood second in my age category (35-45)with timing of 1:39:47. Someone who wasn’t even running 2kms a day to running a Half Marathon in 2 months was quite a shocker for everyone including myself. Important thing to note, I was regularly strength training and had been dedicated in working out in a Gym for 3 plus years before Running happened to me. But finding out that I’d be able to run this strong was like discovering my love for Outdoors and particularly RUNNING. Oh yes, running long distance is certainly more of a mental challenge than physical. It’s good to experience a mixed bag of emotions all at once and how during those minutes of running everything else seems to freeze. Anyone who runs long distance is mentally stronger not that who don’t aren’t but yes I have always encountered that mind gives up much before the body does.
Always Disciplined
I get to hear from fitness enthusiasts and runners all over the country and especially women who seek inspiration towards a healthier lifestyle. I never break my discipline and extremely dedicated to my workouts and this, in turn, is very inspirational for many. Even when it’s a national holiday or an off for a festival, I start my day with running. I hold a lot of responsibility as everyone around me expects me to be on Podium in every race and break my own records with each run. I post and share as much as possible, only to make everyone aware of how “Health is Wealth” and how making healthy choices can transform their lives. Also, I’m a part of Adidas Runners Delhi where I meet runners from all over and help them with their real-life problems related to running. Interactive sessions always prove helpful as they get to know about the real hustle and glory related to RUNNING.
So far so Good
I have run 6 half marathon’s, 3 in 2017 and 3 in 2018 besides running several 10kms races.
IDBI New Delhi Marathon 2017
Airtel Delhi Half Marathon 2017
BSF Run for Martyrs 2017
Tata Mumbai Marathon 2018
IDBI New Delhi Marathon 2018
Airtel Delhi Half Marathon 2018
TCS 10k Bengaluru 2017
Adidas Uprising 2017 10k
but a lot more to do. Now I’m preparing for Tata Mumbai Marathon where I’ll be running a Half Marathon and it’s going to take place on 20th Jan 2019.
Running has changed my life in ways I can’t put into words besides not only making me but feel much younger. I feel like I’ve been detoxed inside out and it’s been a blessing to become a RUNNER.

ABOUT GUEST COLUMNIST

Sonali Mahant is a high energy individual driven with an immense passion for life, relationships, health and self-care who believes that age is just a number and one can start working on their goals the day you get clarity.

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Events Comments Off on The Heptathlon |

The Heptathlon

A young Indian woman, with a humble, rural background has suddenly brought into the limelight, an event, well known but hitherto unheralded. Capt Seshadri takes a look at the challenging Heptathlon. 

In athletics, as in life, only a few parts can be glamorous. The leading running stars are, obviously, the fastest men and women; not that we should take anything away from their efforts. Still, there is glory in events like the marathon, the ultimate test of endurance and stoicism. While track takes centre stage, with the finishing tape in the front of the most august audience, the field events and the throws are an integral part of every athletics competition across the globe. Each one of these needs specialised training, commitment, dedication and a great deal of effort.

Combining all these is an oft-forgotten event, relegated to the sidelines, yet requiring a rare combination of speed, strength and endurance. Seven highly competitive events spread over two days, comprises the heptathlon, a name quite naturally derived from Greek, denoting seven (hepta) athlon (feat). It appears that this is a further take from the once popular pentathlon, and is now contested by both women and men, the former vying for honours outdoors and the latter, indoors. Both, however, are dissimilar in the types of competitions.

When it started

The first women’s heptathlon was reportedly held in 1980 and qualified as an Olympic sport in the 1984 Summer Games.  Today, it is part of the IAAF World Championships, and the IAAF Combined Events Challenge decides who is the women’s heptathlon number one for the year. Points are allotted according to performance in each of the events, in terms of time or distance, with the athlete amassing the most points being the obvious winner.

The first day of the competition comprises the 100 metres hurdles, the high jump, the shot put and the 200 metres. With two sprints, and a field and a throw event each behind them, the women go into the second day with the long jump, the javelin and finally, the 800 metres. Naturally, no individual can be best at everything, so it matters little that the champion athlete should finish on the podium in every event. While one school of thought might recommend that the competitor should be above average in all the events, if not necessarily within a ‘first three’ finish, in reality, each athlete specialises in a few of them and makes calculated compromises in the rest to garner maximum points overall. In effect, the participant actually competes not against the rest of the field, but rather, against the score table, a matrix constructed by an Austrian mathematician, Dr Karl Ulbrich, with points from zero to 1,000 and above for every event.

To score 1,000 points per event, each athlete would be required to perform, on an average, something like this:

110 m hurdles                                   13.85 seconds

High Jump                                              1.82 metres

Shot put                                                 17.07 metres

200 metres                                           23.80 seconds

Long jump                                               6.48 metres

Javelin                                                     57.18 metres

800 metres                                         2:07.83 seconds

Mundane figures, to the normal eye, but to the most competitive athlete, an almost impossible task to accumulate 7,000 points. In fact, the women’s world record has been set at 7,291 points, with the athlete surpassing the 1,000 average in just three of the events, her obvious favourites.

The men’s heptathlon, at first glance, appears to consist of much easier events than those for the women, but the competition is extremely intense and the performances in each, marginal. The men hepathletes compete in the 60 m, long jump, shot put, high jump, 60 m hurdles, pole vault and the 1,000 m, the first four on Day 1 and the remaining on the second day.

And finally, for the super athletes not satisfied with just seven events, there is also a tetradecathlon, a double heptathlon, consisting of 14 events, with seven events each day.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams.

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Motivation Comments Off on Running Longer |

Running Longer

If you want to run continuously for an hour without taking walk breaks then here is how you can achieve that, writes Nandini Reddy

Running non-stop is a dream every runner wants to achieve. Most find it difficult to run without taking walk breaks in the initial running days. When you start you are on a run-walk schedule until you find your pace, strength and endurance to run longer. As you get better you will be running more and walking less. If you have achieved running for 30 minutes straight and are through to the best time for your 5k runs then you have to hit the next goals of running for 60 mins or more without taking walk breaks. ‘

Here are a few things to keep in mind, if you want to run non-stop:

Create a Run Routine

Ensure you create a running plan and pre-run routine. The running plan will help you mark off goals and track your progress. A pre-run routine should include nutrition and preparation. Ensure you lay out your running gear the night before. Ensure you have bottle of water filled and ready. Plan for a simple snack ahead so that you are not scrambling in the morning. Chart out a warm up routine that you do without fail before the run. The focus should be about getting out and running in the quickest possible manner.

Relax and don’t stress

Running for 60 mins straight is a big goal for all runners. You are already on the right training path to achieve this goal, so now its important to run relaxed. If you start your run stressed then you are less likely to achieve your target. Don’t look at your GPS watch or worry about your pace. Just focus on the distance you need to cover. The idea is to finish the distance and stay energized through the course. The idea is to not run fast and stay positive and motivated through the run. If you stress and wind yourself out before you reach your goal distance and time you will be demotivated to even try again.

Fuel well

Nutrition and hydration will ensure you do not tire fast. Try to eat something 30-60 minutes before you run. You meal should include more carbs and be low on fat and fibre. For hydration stick with water and only choose electrolytes if you plan to run continuously for longer than 60 mins. Good options for a pre-race meal would be bananas, apples, figs, skim milk, cheese or peanut butter on bread.

Stay Committed

The running longer plan builds endurance and the idea for is to run without stopping and without getting hurt. The plan will gradually build so don’t over-stress your body in the first week itself. Fatigue will accumulate so its important to rest and recover. Stay alert for injury and ensure that you get them treated early on so that you do not have to lose time running.

A determined runner will complete his run despite all odds. But the idea is run more than one time. So don’t put all your energy into one run. Ensure that you can run longer for every training run you have chalked into your running diary.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

An irregular runner who has run in dry, wet, high altitude and humid conditions. Loves to write a little more than run so now is the managing editor of Finisher Magazine.

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Featured Comments Off on Indian woman, International champion |

Indian woman, International champion

Remembering an athlete who inspired generations, Anju George, the runner we honour for Women’s Day, by Capt Seshadri.

As the world celebrates International Women’s Day, with several million posts across social media, it is certainly an occasion to raise a toast to every mother, wife and daughter. Somewhere in the annals of history, however, lie outstanding achievers, whose pages gather dust, glories forgotten.

Born on April 19, 1977, in a small village in Kerala, God’s own country that also produces God’s own athletes, a young woman by the name of Anju Bobby George made history by becoming the first Indian athlete to win a medal in a World Championships. Initiated into athletics by her father, she soon excelled in the sprints and jumps, going on to a podium finish in the National Schools Games. Her initial foray into athletics was in the heptathlon, but it soon became obvious that the jumps were her forte. While the triple jump brought her several medals and even the National record, her favourite event was the long jump. Graduating from gold in the Junior Asian Championship in 1996, Anju broke into the international scene winning medals in several Asian and Commonwealth Games and across continents as far apart as Africa, Europe and Asia.

Her athletics career took a spiral turn upwards with her coming under the wing of Bobby George, a former National triple jump champion turned coach. This remarkable athlete was a Mechanical Engineer, who gave up both his technical and sports careers in 1998, to train Anju. Intensive training, careful planning and sheer toil combined to work magic. From a low rank of 61 in 2001, she shot up the ladder to be ranked 6th by 2003. This was when they both realised that to make a strong mark on the international scene, she needed the exposure. Anju went on to train under the legendary Mike Powell, who worked on her technique and skills and set her two rungs higher in the ladder at number 4 in the world.

Some of her more memorable moments came in 2005 when she won gold at the IAAF World Athletics in Monte Carlo, wresting the medal from Tatyana Kotova of Russia who was stripped of her first place finish. Her personal best of 6.83 metres came at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, but that was still only good enough to earn her fifth place. In recognition of her sporting achievements, in 2002, the Government of India conferred on her prestigious Arjuna Award. Her medal performance at World level in 2003 earned her the nation’s highest sporting honour, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna. And, for her outstanding contribution to athletics, she was awarded the Padma Shri, the country’s fourth highest civilian award.

The bonding between athlete and coach was so strong that the couple soon tied the marital knot. Anju is currently the Chairperson of TOPS (Target Olympic Podium Scheme) and an Executive Member of the government’s Khelo India project.

Anju Bobby George wrote a new chapter in the history of Indian sports, when she became the first Indian athlete among women and men, winning a bronze at the 2003 World Athletics Championships in Paris. A fitting moment to remember, especially on International Women’s Day.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams.

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Featured Comments Off on Standing tall – from a wheelchair |

Standing tall – from a wheelchair

Capt Seshadri tells us the extraordinary story of Para-Olympian Deepa Malik who brought home the silver medal from Rio, in 2016.

This is a saga of unbelievable courage and the will to win against all odds. Set in the backdrop of the Kargil war, when a brave army Colonel was fighting for his country, back home, his wife was fighting for her life.

This is the true story of a woman with indomitable spirit, who simply refused to give up.  Army daughter, army wife and mother of two, Deepa Malik was diagnosed with a tumour in the spinal cord that required 3 major surgeries and 183 stitches between her shoulders. Paralyzed from below the waist, she was destined to be consigned to a wheelchair for life. Her elder daughter was in need of special care with a motor disability called hemiplegia. But nothing could daunt this extraordinary woman who simply refused to look helplessly upon life as a paraplegic. While most able bodied sports persons would be content with success in a single sport, Deepa began a multi-faceted sports career at 36, an age when most sportspeople retire.  Over the next few years, she became a champion biker, swimmer, rally driver and athlete, creating and breaking records in every sport that she attempted.

The Unstoppable Spirit 

Her old passion for biking was rekindled and, with a ‘quad’ bike modified to her specifications, she enrolled with the Himalayan Motorsports Association and the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India. Over an 8 day period, in rarefied atmosphere and sub zero temperatures, at an altitude of 18,000 feet, she rode her bike through 1,700 km, the first woman to undertake such an arduous journey. In 2013, Deepa biked 3,278 km from Chennai to Delhi, the longest ever drive by a paraplegic woman.

Discovering that her shoulders needed strengthening to help with her biking, she took to swimming, little realizing what she was about to achieve. In her S1 category, she holds national records in 3 styles – freestyle, breast and back stroke. Breaking away from the limitation of a swimming pool, she plunged into the Yamuna river and swam against the current for a distance of 1 km.

Her competitive spirit soon turned to a new area. For 19 months, Deepa relentlessly fought for a licence for an invalid person’s modified rally vehicle and followed it up with an FMSCI rallying licence for competitive driving, both firsts for any physically challenged person. Her grit and determination saw her complete two of the toughest rallies in the world – the Raid de Himalaya in 2009 and the Desert Storm in 2010.

The Big Win

In 2016, at age 46, Deepa won a silver in the Paralympics in the shot put, becoming the first Indian woman to win a medal in these Games. Currently, she holds national records in the F53 category in the shot put, discus and javelin throws and the Asian record in the javelin. Between 2010 and 2012, Deepa was ranked first in Asia in all the three throws; at the world level, she ranked second in the shot put and third in the javelin and discus throws.

Overall, Deepa Malik has won 58 national and 18 international medals in various disciplines. Not one to rest on her laurels, she also actively works to highlight the needs of other paraplegic sportspersons to the authorities, with great success. For her achievements in swimming, she won the Arjuna Award in 2012. Her untiring work in contributing to sport and her fighting spirit against pain and disability to make a mark on the world stage, won her the prestigious Padma Shri award in 2017.

Deepa had this to say on winning her 2016 Paralympics silver: “I hope my journey and the medal can serve as an inspiration for differently-abled individuals to break out from their social boundaries and pursue their dreams.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams.

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Don’t stop till you touch the sky

Sergey Bubka, athlete supreme, the man who was never limited by the heights that he literally achieved, is in India, as the brand ambassador for the Tata Mumbai Marathon on January 21, 2018. A profile of the prolific man by Capt Seshadri.

Picture in your mind, for just a moment, a man jumping from the ground to the roof of a two storeyed building. Now, this is no Superman or comic book hero performing a stunt, but a living, breathing individual who vaulted his way to fame, clearing 6.15 metres or, 20 feet 14 inches. A world champion pole vaulter for 21 years, the first man to breach the 6.0 metre barrier, while breaking the men’s record 35 times and bettering his own, untouched record 14 times, thus making his name synonymous with the pole vault.

Sergey Nazarovich Bubka, born on December 4, 1963, in Ukraine, part of the erstwhile Soviet Union, began his career in athletics with the 100 metres sprint and the long jump. He started competing on the international athletics scene in 1981 as a pole vaulter at the European Junior Championship, where he finished a moderate seventh. His leap to fame however, took an upward turn in 1983, with his world championship gold at Helsinki, clearing 5.70 metres (18 feet 8 inches). During the next couple of decades, he became simply unbeatable.

If the cliché ‘raising the bar’ were to be epitomised, he would be the lone author. His maiden world record of 5.85 metres, was set on May 26, 1984, a date coinciding with the conquest of Everest by Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hilary, precisely 31 years earlier. After them, on earth, there were no more frontiers to conquer; for Bubka though, his achievement was but a small beginning. Just over a year later, on July 13, 1985, he cleared 6.00 metres (19 feet 8 inches), a feat that had been considered impossible by any human. Not one to rest on his pole, he went on, over the next ten years, to consistently break his records time and again, pushing himself on his own, despite the fact that there were no opponents to challenge him.

In the days before Perestroika, Soviet athletes who set world records were rewarded with bonus payments, every time they set a new record. Bubka made a name for collecting these bonuses at every meet, by beating his own record, many a time by as slim a margin as one centimetre! This constant improvement made him a star attraction and an object of much speculation at athletic meets.

The gap was too wide, too high, for the rest of the world. Until January 2014, no other pole vaulter on earth had jumped beyond 6.07 metres; Bubka, however, had cleared 6.10 metres as early as in 1991, in San Sebastian, Spain, such was his dominance over the event. On July 31, 1994, at age 31, when most athletes would have faded out, or when the world would have consigned them to retirement, Sergey Bubka reached his best ever leap of 6.14 metres (20 feet 1 ¾ inches), which still stands as the highest ever outdoor pole vault. He was not to be outdone indoors either. On February 21, 1993, at Donetsk, Ukraine, close to the town of his birth, he set the indoor world record of 6.15 metres, which stood firm for a couple of decades, till Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie cleared 6.16 metres. Ironically, this was at the same meet, at the same venue, in the same month, but 21 years later.

For an athlete of his calibre and achievements, the Olympics were a severe disappointment, his only gold coming in Seoul 1988, where he cleared 5.90 metres, far below his usual standard. It was probably a matter of pride for this great star that he retired from the pole vault in 2001, during a ceremony at his Pole Vault Stars meet in Donetsk, the very place where he established his world record.

Bubka’s secret to success could probably be attributed to a few key factors. For one, he possessed enormous strength and speed, combined with the agility of a gymnast. He would also grasp the pole at the extreme height to gain extra leverage. His style is referred to as the Petrov / Bubka technique, in which the vaulter concentrates on putting maximum energy into the bar on the upward move. This, combined with high running speed, allows the vaulter to benefit most from the recoil of the pole, thereby increasing energy into the swing.

This sporting genius was twice named Athlete of the Year by Track & Field News and is one of 24 athletes inducted as inaugural members of the IAAF Hall of Fame. Now well into his retirement, Sergey Bubka is the Senior Vice President of the IAAF and President of the National Olympic Committee of Ukraine. He is also an Honorary Member of the International Olympic Committee.

A little point of interest: Like many siblings who do not take after their parents, Sergei Jr is a professional tennis player.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams.

Read more