The Support Athletes Get Today is Lavish, Says Karnam Malleswari

Source: Olympics

Karnam Malleswari, the Iron Woman of Indian sport, was a pioneer in many ways. Apart from winning medals galore at the Asian Games and the World Championships, she scripted history when she won a bronze medal in weightlifting at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. It was the only medal at those Olympics for India, something which will always stand out in the record books.

At one point of time, Malleswari was seen as an anti-establishment figure, fighting with the Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWLF). Yet, it was Malli, as she is known to friends, who was the first to highlight how much potential there was/is in Mirabai Chanu. She always asked people to “have faith” even when Indian weightlifting was hit by the dope storm.

In an exclusive interview with RevSportz, Malleswari spoke on how Indian sport has changed over the years. She had, after all, won silver medals at the 1994 Hiroshima Asian Games and also the 1998 edition in Bangkok.

Kannan: How do you see the Indian athletes performing in the Hangzhou Asian Games?
I have no hesitation in saying India will do very well in the Asian Games. Let me add that I am not talking just about my sport, weightlifting. Today, India has talent in various competitive disciplines.

Kannan: Can you elaborate please?
Malleswari: I have no shame in saying during my time, a lot of athletes were happy just to compete in the Olympics and come back. I won an Olympic bronze medal in Sydney, and that was a game-changer. Today, parents are ready to encourage kids to take up sports in India, and that’s fantastic. We have so many different champions.

Kannan: Will you agree with the statement that India has got talent and there are athletes ready to slog harder?
Malleswari: Definitely, yes. If you look at the results achieved in various sports, we can see a revolution. Today, we have new champions and someone like Neeraj Chopra doing so exceedingly well. The more champions India produces, the more it will inspire the youth. We need quantity and quality after all.

Also Read: Sunil Chhetri Penalty Beats Bangladesh, Sets up Winner-Take-All Against Myanmar

Kannan: If you were to compare your period and now, what is the difference?
So much has changed, and the way athletes get support today is lavish. During my time, food supplements were almost unheard of. We were allowed to go one day before a World Championship and asked to return the next day after the event got over! Today, most Indian elite athletes are abroad for most of the year, and training at the best places. This is a big difference between then and now. Look at the use of sports science and modern facilities now being provided – all this was unheard of during my time.

Kannan: Do you think there has been a change in philosophy in sports in India?
I am more than thrilled the Central Government and various state governments are spending so much money on our Indian athletes. There has been a change in philosophy and results are there to see. We are doing well in so many different events today, and I am not even talking about cricket!

Kannan: You have started a weightlifting academy. What are your expectations?
It has been my dream to set up an academy for so many years. As you are aware, I am now on deputation with the Delhi Government to set up a sports university. My academy in Yamunanagar (Haryana) was inaugurated last month. If I can inspire more athletes to take to weightlifting, I would be most happy. We need to create infrastructure, we need to have more avenues for youngsters, and we need to ensure the youth get the right exposure.

Kannan: Has there been an increase in the number of women in Indian sport?
A lot of people say I am a pioneer of sorts. No, that’s not important. What’s more important is that girls come to sport and compete in a safe environment. There is much more safety today and parents are ready to send their children. India has won medals in various age groups and girls have shown they are serious. I am sure in the Asian Games and the Paris Olympics, this trend will continue.

Kannan: Will you hazard a guess on medals from Hangzhou?
All I can say is that India will do very well. There will be many winners, and we need to see what all disciplines Indian athletes shine in. How do we forget that there are sports like chess and even martial arts and cricket? My best wishes to all the athletes.

Also Read: Why Cricket at the Asian Games Matters

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