Mangalore: Financial Burden Makes Powerlifter Supritha Powerless
Daijiworld Media Network - Mangalore
Mangalore, Jul 1: We often bemoan the dismal performance of our countrymen in sports (other than cricket) in the international arena. The few who have dared to take up sports and excelled surviving dirty politics, nepotism and lack of encouragement are today shedding tears as bleak future stares them. Their dismal condition and the dilemma they face speak volumes of the real state of affairs of sports in our country. We don’t have to go far in search of example because the pathetic situation of Supritha Poojary who won accolades and brought laurels to the country by winning 8 gold medals at the Commonwealth Powerlifting Championships in December 2011 should be an eye opener to all of us.
Supritha who has answered her Open University final B.Com (awaiting results) is frantically searching for a job to sustain herself and her chronically sick mother but without much luck. Now she is left with no alternative other than to plead or supplicate to people who once promised her stars soon after winning gold medals. She is now feeling that though her hard work, sweat and fortitude has won her medals at the national and international levels it has failed to give her daily bread which she desperately needs for the survival of her ailing mother and self.
It is however, gratifying to note that she has not lost her ardor for the sports she loves or bears no rancor for having taken up sports. It is the love for the sport that keeps her going, hardships notwithstanding. “I want to continue in sports as long as I live. Sport is my passion and I cannot stay detached from it”, says this soft-spoken Powerlifter who is quite shy and belies all the aura of an athlete of international fame. In fact it was difficult to draw her into a conversation or to make her talk about her own achievements leave alone narrate about her own present predicament.
After the death of her father Vijay Kumar who worked as Carpenter Supritha and her mother Shaila have been staying in her grandmother’s house where the duo are taken care of by her uncle (mother’s brother) Krishna. Krishna who is working at Mangalore City Corporation has to take care of a family of 7 from his meager salary. Apart from Supritha and her mother Krishna has to take care of his bed-ridden mother and his own family. But luckily for Supritha it was the constant support both financial and moral and encouragement from uncle Krishna that helped her achieve greater glory in Powerlifting. Her eyes fill with tears when she talks about her uncle and the back-up she received from him. “I know how much my uncle has done for me. Many a time he was forced to pledge gold to take care of the family and pay for my expenses. I don’t know what I would have done without the support of my uncle and his family” says a tearful Supritha who is grateful for his uncle for his constant support & encouragement.
At one stage, about 2 years back before the death of her father both her parents were in the same hospital in different wards and Supritha has to take care of them along with her practice and studies. “I am the only child of my parents and when they were in the hospital I had to shoulder the responsibility of taking care of them. I don’t know how I managed those days”, she recalls with a lump in her throat.
Her achievements from a perky little girl who used to play Kho-Kho and Kabaddi in school and then hockey and athletics in High School are laudable. When in PUC Supritha tried to make a mark in throws like shot put, javelin and discuss and achieved reasonable success even getting selected to nationals. She says it was her mother’s dream to see her make a mark that gave her the initial motivation and inspiration to excel in sports though her father was not in favor of her taking up sports.
She joined SDM College Ujire under sports quota and on the advice of college coach Rajendra Prasad decided to try her luck in weightlifting and Powerlifting. Since throws and weightlifting are based on strength switching over to Powerlifting was not difficult for Supritha. Working 4 hours every day 2 hours each in the morning and evening at the gym at Mangala stadium without any coach, she was ready to establish her talent in Powerlifting. She did not have a regular coach and athletics coach Dinesh Kunder and weight lifter Saraswathi Putran helped her in coaching in their respective fields. She made her presence in the national level by winning gold in 2010. In the selection trial held at Jamshedpur she was selected to represent India in Commonwealth Powerlifting completion held in London in 72 kg category. Supritha weights only 64 kg but participates in the 72 category as she is comfortable in that zone. She was one among the 58 members selected from India in this competition and one among the three from Karnataka.
Though she was selected to represent the country she had to seek sponsorship to collect Rs. 2 lakhs required to go to London. It was Dr Asha Jyothi Rao, her neighbor who took the initiative of seeking sponsors and she showed her class by winning 8 gold medals – 2 each in individual, squat, dead and bench press in equipped and non-equipped category. Of course she borrowed the costume and other accessories required from lifters from other states because a participant in an international event requires at least two sets of costumes and each costume may cost anything from 25,000 to 50,000 and above. Then there are other accessories required which also cost quite a lot.
On her return after winning gold medals Supritha got a rousing reception and recently Karnataka Chief Minister Sadananda Gowda handed over a cheque of Rs 55,000/- when she was felicitated for her achievements at the Commonwealth Powerlifting championship. This is nothing but peanuts as compared to what Supritha or any other lifter or sports person spends to attend an international event. When bronze medalist from Chennai at the same championship has been awarded a gift of Rs. 3 lakhs by Tamilnadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha Supreetha’s 8 gold medals did not fetch her even a decent amount of money which did not even cover the cost of attending the competition. Though various state governments and the Railways recruit sports persons Supritha does not know how to go about it and feels it requires influence from powerful people.
Supritha is now keen to participate in the World Cup to be held in Poland in the coming months. She will have to cross the first hurdle of getting selected and then repeat the same ordeal of seeking sponsors. But getting prepared is not easy considering her present condition because going to Poland involves huge expenses. Usually lifters need to eat 10 15 eggs every day to build the power and energy. If that is not possible they are supposed to each 2 eggs each with all the three meals and also supplement their diet with meat and fish. But she cannot afford this necessity and is able to consume only one egg each once in two days. Eating meat even once a week is a luxury which she cannot afford considering the high cost of mutton and chicken. Her mother who is highly diabetic suffers from various ailments needs hospitalization every now and then. He sight is badly affected and she needs laser treatment for her eyes. The running around to the hospital has fallen on her shoulders. Fortunately at 21, her shoulders have been strong enough to withstand this burden. But how long she will be able to carry the burden, is a moot question.
Despite facing elephantine problems her passion, her courage and her strength of purpose are laudable. She will be a role model for others sports enthusiasts like her who have abundant talent but no means to pursue it. Supritha needs not just a pat on the back but generous contributions from well-wishers who want to see her reach greater heights and make India proud by her excellence in sports. That is the only way we appreciate her talent and excellence.
Bank account details
Bank: Karnataka Bank
A/c number 1852500100840201
IFSC Code: KARB0000185