By T S Sudhir
I write this as I, along with all of India and the world, celebrate 20 years of Sachin Tendulkar. But I am here to talk of another champion, Tejaswini Naidu. I know the name won’t ring a bell. Not your fault. Tejaswini is India’s national champion in powerlifting. Like Sachin, she is also very consistent. The 26-year-old has held this title for the last fifteen years. Her last title came in Chandigarh this Independence Day.
Tejaswini’s record speaks for her. She is the best we have. India’s national champion is ranked number one in Asia and is the world number 4. She was the junior world champion in 2001 and is a three-time Asian junior and two-time Asian senior powerlifting champion. She won the silver medal at the Commonwealth championship in the UK in 2005. What is commendable is that while winning her 15 national titles, she broke the national record 30 times.
But despite all this, Tejaswini missed being part of the Indian team at the World championship that was held in Gurgaon this month. Because she could not pay 59000 rupees as entry fee for that tournament.
Tejaswini may not be able to take part in the Commonwealth championship to be held in Pune in the second week of December either. She may not be part of the Indian team because she doesn’t have fifty thousand rupees to pay for the entry fee and dope test fee to the Indian Powerlifting Federation.
Tejaswini approached the Andhra Pradesh government. They were unable to help as the rules specify that only Olympic sports can be given help. And powerlifting is not an Olympic sport.
Tejaswini’s achievements and glory, angst and worries never make news because she practises a sport called powerlifting. This is a sport distinct from weightlifting as the performance style is different. Powerlifting is a combination of squat, benchpress and dead lift, that requires not just brute power and strength, but also skill and technique.
“Every morning, I practise from 7 to 10. Then from 11 to 3, I move around Hyderabad, meeting people, seeking financial help. Evening 5 to 8 is again practise time. I am unable to concentrate on my training because I am more worried about arranging the entry fee,” she says.
Tejaswini lost four kg in a single month. “I cannot afford the kind of healthy diet that a powerlifter like me needs to have,” says Tejaswini. With little money to afford a healthy diet, just the struggle to keep oneself healthy and fit kills the best of talent.
Tejaswini who belongs to Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh, lost her father when she was just eight years old. When she was studying at the Steel City Public School in Visakhapatnam, she enrolled in a summer camp for powerlifting, choosing the sport over more conventional summer games like karate, badminton and tennis. She was 11 then and never imagined the game would bring her sweat and tears in abundance.
I ask Tejaswini if she regrets having taken up this game. “If only my diet, training and sponsorship had been taken care of, I can easily be world number one,” she says. Followers of the game agree. Tejaswini is one of the very few powerlifters in the world who excel in all three aspects of the sport. She can lift 200 kg in squat position, 210 kg in dead lift and 100 kg in bench press.
The name ‘Tejaswini’ means radiant. True to that, B.Tejaswini Naidu radiates confidence, positive energy and a never-say-die attitude. “I love powerlifting,” she says. “There is no Tejaswini without powerlifting and in any case, I am used to taking on a lot of load on my shoulders,” she smiles.
It would certainly help if Tejaswini could get a helping hand to take on that load. Not as charity but with respect for what Tejaswini has achieved in the low-profile sport of powerlifting. As everyone raises a toast to Sachin’s blade, another champion in another non-Olympic sport, just like Sachin’s cricket, could do with a little bit of a lift, so that she gets the power to perform.
(B.Tejaswini Naidu can be reached at 99086-09359 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org)