Six Madurai girls bag medals in weightlifting tournament

Their team represented Tamil Nadu in Indo-Nepal Championship

For P. Kanchana, the sports teacher at Sarada Vidyalaya (SV), 18 years of labour has brought sweet success. For the first time, six of her students have returned with a haul of medals and overall champions trophy in an international weightlifting tournament.

The Madurai team represented Tamil Nadu among 13 other States from India that participated in the Indo-Nepal Championship-2021 held in September. “This was the first time the girls travelled outside the country and returned with five gold and two silver medals in different weight categories and the best team trophy,” an elated Kanchana told The Hindu. She too bagged the Master’s gold medal in the +87kg category.

So far, her students bagged medals at the district, regional and State levels and also qualified for the nationals. “My students come from under-privileged families and my aim is to train them well in the sport so that it helps them in future for higher studies under sports quota or with small job opportunities,” she said.

From a tailor and autorickshaw driver to housemaid and loader’s daughter, the girls worked up their way hard to fight poverty, hunger and other family adversities. It is the fruit of their individual grit, determination and sweat that makes them a part of sporting folklore now.

For Harini Ganesh, it was an important opportunity. She won gold at district level for last three years, but lost at the State. “I never gave up and continued to practise hard under Kanchana coach,” said the now final-year Lady Doak College student, who bagged a gold beating 22 opponents in 61-64 kg category.

From Class VII

She took to weightlifting in Class VII at SV. “It was out of boredom of attending classroom lectures. When the coach came asking if anybody was interested in weightlifting training, I joined to bunk classes but soon began to enjoy,” she said.

Her mother, a housemaid worried about financing her tournaments. “She would save to pay registration fee of ₹600 for district level and ₹1,500 for State level. And I always wanted to repay her with a medal.”

Many of her teammates’ parents worried about nutritious diet the girls required and whether weightlifting would affect their menstrual cycle. “We faced difficult situations but our coach passionately fostered our talent,” said Harini.

The three-day tournament in Pokhara, Nepal, costed ₹35,000 each and the girls were lucky to find sponsors in State Finance Minister PTR Palanivel Thiaga Rajan, former MLA P. Saravanan and other philanthropists.

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