An Accidental Sports Star

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Decided to write something mood-uplifting today. Sometimes you discover that you have hidden talents that are totally unexpected, and these are the pleasant surprises that life throws at you. It happened to me in the sports arena.

I was an overweight and lazy kind of kid who hated “sports”, especially PT (physical training). PT periods were the most boring periods for me. Hated standing in the sun and doing group exercises with dumbbells and hoops etc. I would always end up daydreaming during these exercises and go out of sync with the others and get reprimanded by PT Sir (this is what we called our PT teacher). Very often I used to give excuses like “headache”, “stomach ache”, “fever” etc. to get excused from this class. As a result of this he and I ended up developing a tacit understanding over time, and he used to “excuse” me even before I blurted out the whole excuse with a wave of his hand – that was a signal to go and sit under the tree at the edge of the ground. He had given up on me and realized that I was determined to remain “physically untrained”. So I thought that I didn’t have any prowess in this field, but was wrong.

When we were in the sixth standard, for some reason it was decided that all the kids should participate in the heats before Sports Day. Till then it had been voluntary participation. So I was also lined up with everyone else and asked to run. Ended up surprising everyone (including myself), by winning race after race! So I got selected for a few finals on Sports Day, and also won the Long Jump event that was conducted a few days before Sports Day. It took me a while to adjust to this new-found status of “Long-Jumper”, but nevertheless it was a pleasant discovery. Even the principal seemed to have noticed it because whenever I bumped into him after that, he would give me advice to “drink more milk” 🙂 🙂  The only negative outcome from it was that PT Sir stopped excusing me and would instead pull me aside and give me sermons on “getting serious”, and ask me to “practice” regularly.

I believe that the main reason behind this sudden success was “Elastic”. It was a game that became a big fad when I was in school. It involved making a loop out of 3-4 meters of elastic and jumping in and out of this loop in several different ways. Two kids would hold the loop at both ends around their legs, while the others jumped in and out. There were many “levels” – higher levels meant a higher height of the loop.

My classmates, neighborhood friends and I were so crazy about this game that we looked forward to lunch breaks to play it, then rushed home after school to play again, and this play went on till late in the night until our parents pleaded with us to stop for the sake of the aunties and uncles who lived below us 🙂 🙂 Not really sure where this game originated and if it was played outside Bangalore as well. But, it was a great sports “practice” in the form of a game. However, unfortunately, we lost interest in it after a couple of years and switched to other pastimes.

That year, I won some prizes in the short distance races (100m and 200m) as well. The next year onwards, I was the “Fastest Girl” (no pun intended 😉 ) in school every year till I left school. This was the title given when you win the 100m dash, and I could run it around 13 seconds 🙂 🙂 Also became a member and later Captain of the Throwball team.

All the victories on the sports field had a positive effect, and I did start practicing regularly in the medical college grounds that were adjacent to our campus. It was a better ground compared to our school ground which was much smaller. It also had some nice trees and a covered area for seating during sports events. Used to enjoy all the practice sessions with neighborhood friends in the evenings after school, or on mornings during holidays. Initially, we were doing our own thing without any coach, but were lucky enough to get a great coach later on.

Mr. Somshankar lived in our apartment complex on the ground floor, and he had previously trained the Indian Olympics team and accompanied them to the Moscow Olympics. (And thanks to being part of the Olympics, he was the only one in the whole building to own a telephone. The rest of us didn’t get a telephone until many years later)

He spotted our group on the ground one day and decided to take charge of us. We weren’t very happy in the beginning because he was very strict and didn’t allow any freedom whatsoever. We used to grumble and make faces at him when he wasn’t looking. But it turned out to be a blessing in disguise because we learned a lot from him, and that too free of cost. He taught us the importance of a proper warm-up and would insist on at least a half an hour warm up that involved jogging for 400m and then doing a whole lot of simple exercises from head to toe. And then the real practice would begin. He would also force us to end it all with the dreaded “abdominals”, and stress to me that they were very important for long-jumpers.

So athletics was my main extra-curricular activity in school, and I grew more and more dedicated to it. Even started reading up some Sports Medicine textbooks that were in the medical college library, to get better at it. They had some really good books with a lot of great advice on practice sessions, exercises, and stretches. They even had advice on good nutrition that I tried to follow. Those were the incredible days when I could consume around 12-13 idlis or dosas for breakfast, and easily eat one kg of Bengali sweets from K C Das at one go! Also learnt why I could excel only at short distance races, but never really win (though I came second or third) long distance races. Apparently one predominantly has either fast-twitch or slow twitch muscles. Those with fast-twitch excel in short distance running, and if you have slow twitch – you’re better at long distance and marathons. PT Sir would always chide me for not doing well in long distance and I would try explaining this muscle fibers theory to him, but it would fall on deaf ears 🙁 🙁

In my final year in school (Std 10), got an invitation to join the Karnataka State Athletics team and declined the offer after some thought. Joining the team meant traveling to and fro to the Kanteerava Stadium every day for practice and that was pretty far from our house. And sadly after I left school, never pursued athletics or practiced sports with the same fervor.

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