– By Hardik Jariwala
Despite having a population of over a billion, our sports loving country can boast of only a handful of Olympic medals. One athlete comprising of this elite list is Karnam Malleswari.
19th September 2000. The day that changed sports for women in India. Hailing from Voosavanipeta, Andhra Pradesh, Karnam Malleswari lifted her way into the history books. She was not only the sole medalist for India at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, but she was also the first ever Indian woman to win an Olympic medal.
With a strength of 65 athletes, the Indian contingent set off in their bid for glory. In the end it was a woman lifting the spirits of a billion Indians.
Karnam did win a bronze medal. There was, however, an expectation from her to land a medal. Having won world championships previously, her medal win was no surprise.
If not for a miscalculation her medal could well have been a different colour. In what was her third attempt, she opted for 137.5 kgs. In retrospect, when recalculated, a 132.5 kg clean jerk attempt would have sufficed. Regardless, her achievement is staggering and one which deserves immense applause.
How often do we see players losing track after being felicitated with prestigious awards. A change of attitude, perhaps. That was not the case with Karnam Malleswari. She was conferred with the Arjuna Award (1994), the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award(1995), and the Padma Shri (1999). Her performances after showed how she deserved every accolade she had received.
In a time when not many women took up sports, she broke the shackles and paved the way for female athletes in our country. Suddenly there was belief that women too could achieve great heights in sports. Our country is finally reaping benefits off the seeds sown by Malleswari. Today we have a fantastic group of female athletes dominating their sports. We’ve had Mary Kom, Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu, Sakshi Malik and many more walk down the path Malleswari did, and we couldn’t be more proud.
Malleswari’s achievements have been path breaking and even today continue to inspire many young girls, instilling belief that if she could, they too can!
Since retiring from Weightlifting in 2004 she has been working with the Food Corporation of India. Even after 14 years since retirement, she still feels like she has a lot to contribute to the sport. Considering her talent and knowledge we couldn’t agree any more. With the guidance of an athlete the stature of Malleswari, a lot of young aspirants will have a fantastic mentor.
The sporting duo, Mr. Rajesh Tyagi and Ms.Karnam Malleswari, have launched a foundation called “KarnamMalleswari Foundation”.
The aim of the foundation is to uplift the society as a whole and work with humans by treating them as humans and fulfilling them with all opportunities that they deserve. The main pillars of the foundation are; women, senior citizens and children. From providing all basic necessities for their upliftment, the foundation focuses on the upbringing of women, senior citizens and children who make the human tree grow stronger.
The objective of the foundation is dedicated wholly to the public purely based on non-profitable purposes. But yes, the return expected from the investment is for quality improvement.
The Foundation works round the clock to ensure the availability of all possible equipment, infrastructure, basic necessities and scholarships to deserving talent. The Foundation also makes sure to serve the women and senior citizens with the completion of basic requirements.
While ‘Daan’ is thought to be their mantra for giving the nation back, they strive hard to ensure that no senior citizen or women is left stranded in the middle. From giving e-rickshaws to senior citizens for covering local routes to providing meals at doorstep, they serve the pillars of our country with all that we can do. Abiding by the tagline – “Enrich India”, they aim to nurture each and every part of the society with best facilities, infrastructure and basic requirements.
The foundations aims and objectives are fantastic. Wanting to be a catalyst for encouraging wider participation and recognising outstanding performances. They also wish to provide all of their facilities in rural, urban and semi urban areas to everyone, regardless of caste, religion, sex and age.
She is also coming up with an academy soon, named National Weightlifting & Power lifting High Performance Training and Coaching Centre. It aims at promoting weightlifters and improving rural infrastructure. They wish to create medal winning talent by Olympics 2024.
These initiatives are exceptional and applause worthy.
On this Woman’s day we salute Karnam Malleswari and her tremendous contribution to the sports industry and the society. Athletes like her not only inspire and create champions on the field, but off the field as well.
Image Source – Karnam Malleswari