Team Speaks: Athletics

The poster child of sportsmanship that we most spontaneously envisage is most probably an athlete.This cluster of lone wolf events which get grouped under athletics, is another genre of sports in and by itself. Comprising 18 events like pole vault, shot put, sprints and hurdles, athletic’s visage as a time tested classic among all other events makes them a must watch in any major sports competitions. Accounting for a whooping 20 points on the overall score tally at the Inter-IIT Sports Meet, athletics events get our adrenaline rushing as high as our athletes themselves.

IITM’s team of 11 guys lead by Bipin Babu and 4 girls lead by Sowmya would be hitting the tracks at Kanpur this year. G Soorya caught up with the team on one of their regular training sessions and here are snippets from the interview. This is the sixth in the Inter-IIT series. 

Team Preparation Timeline

The official practice kick started in the summer of 2016. This camp was two weeks long and involved a great deal of workout with the aim of building the final team from its participants later.

Regular practice started with the commencement of this year’s odd semester in August.

These 3 hour long training sessions happened  every day through the semester.

By the time the end semesters began we had the final team of 11 guys and 4 girls shortlisted.

The even more rigorous Main-Camp began immediately after the vacations.

The Practice Session

A day’s sessions starts with jogging the entire perimeter of  the Watsa stadium thrice, at least.

A suit of stretching exercises follows the warm up. “We do the ABC exercises. It’s a basic workout for warming up.”explains Harsh, the last year’s team captain.This second year M Tech student said he has been into athletics since childhood, a fact well evidenced in his tall sculpted frame. “High knees, straight knees, and others , we sweat a lot within half an hour.” added Harsh.

The team then splits to hone their skills for their individual events under the guidance of the coaches. The team was coached by Manikyaraj Sir and Gift Sir both of whom have been part of IITM for a long time.”Even after being 55 and 72 of age respectively they compete in endurance and fitness with us 20 year olds” says Harsh who attributed his prowess at the Hurdles to a sage advice of his coach- “Don’t jump, ATTACK!”

Stringent Cuts and Copious Servings:

“I’m the only one in the girls team with a weight above fifty, so I try to eat very carefully” remarks Avino Nifi who finds herself walking over a nutritional tight-rope like all others in the team.

Diet is a really important factor while trying to maintain peak fitness for any sports competition.This is more so for athletics where fitness is the event itself. “Regular mess food isn’t good for us, so whenever I go to gym or train, I eat outside too.If the Institute can provide even 50 rupees per day for those selected for the mini-camp, it would help us in a big way” feels Bipin.

“Naresh eats 9 eggs and Suraj eats 6 every breakfast ! ” remarked an amused Avino, the team’s freshie from HS, who evidently seemed new to such protein “bingeing” which goes hand in hand with high endurance sports.

Shreyas has cracked down on ice-creams as he doesn’t want to take any chance with the chilling Kanpur winter.

“They said they’d serve barbecue chicken during the Main-camp, they could have, you know…” adds Avino with the quintessential “Freshie’s Expectation vs Reality” look on her face as she said this.

The Put Fight Spirit

Muscle aches, cramps and sheer exhaustion. The answers to the “Why” question were as expected personal. Suraj recollects his childhood spent in a small town with not many opportunity to shine at sports. “Chahta tha ki koi accha team me rahun, yeh sab hamesha mera dream tha” (“It has always been my dream to be a part of a great team”).’ Those strong “nudges” by a fellow teammate when you’re down keeps you on track always. Improvements become the motivation and watching team mates achieve goals is the biggest motivator. Suraj feels it’s a reminder of one’s own potential. Even after joining NSO Volleyball in his first year, Saikumar aka Tony, shifted to athletics because of his childhood passion of running and jumping. You could easily spot this passion if you could see him deftly climb trees to reach different floors in Mandak. Representing the Institute at a national level event is what inspires him through all this rigor.

The team strongly believes that the fact that they’re an athlete reflects on all spheres of their lives positively. Naresh specifically pointed out that athletics requires a zen like focus and mindfulness. With events lasting only 2 – 5  seconds, a year’s effort could be easily nullified at the slightest slip of awareness. “In most other sports we have the opportunity to correct mistakes on the fly as those events last much longer, but not so with athletics events.” he added.

Girls in Athletics

Sowmya had the singular honor of being both the captain and the team herself at the start of the semester. Now however, the girls team captain has 3 more members by her side. “When I started this year we had girls coming on and off. It was so difficult for me to form a team. Many didn’t expect this level of rigor and quit. You have to come continuously, only then is it possible to do something” said Sowmya who feels there needs t be a lot more enthusiasm to be shown by girls in insti for athletics. It was only by the end of September that she was able to finalize the team.

“Girls generally feel that athletics requires too much workout,too much effort too much everything compared to badminton or other sports. Even I used to be under that impression in my first year. But the reality is that every sport requires equal amount of dedication and equal amount of work.” Our Institute falls behind other IITs when it comes to women’s athletics events because of the lack of a good athletics culture among the girls. Niveda believes that popularizing NSO athletics should be the best way to encourage more girls to participate in these events.

Captain on Athletics Culture in Insti

Being the captain of an athletics team is much different from being the captain of other team sports.”Motivation is individual dependent and the team is for general support. This might be one reason why athletics sees greater dropping rate” says Bipin Bapu, the Men’s team captain and last year’s Institute Sports Secretary. He points out how forming a strong team has been increasingly more difficult over the years. In contrast to other IITs, IIT-M sees lukewarm enthusiasm for athletics even as early as in NSO selections. These issues have been a major point of focus during his captaincy this year. Tapping freshies right at NSO seems to be the best strategy for a good team.”My aim is to build a strong team for the next few years to come. Three great people are passing out this year. The girls also need to come up” said Bipin in a concerned tone.

“Athletics needs more publicity; whatever I have achieved in insti, I have achieved only because of athletics. Even though I have played many team sports, the fighting spirit that I have is because of athletics. I became the Sports Secretary  last year mainly because of my experience of being in the  athletics team” recounts Bipin, loyally vouching for better years to come for the Institute’s athletics culture.

We hope this year’s team give their best at Kanpur and keep inspiring all of us. We wish them all luck in the challenges ahead at Kanpur and sincerely hope the team brings glory to IIT-M!

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Top row from Left: Avino, Niveda, Sowmya (Women’s team captain), Sandeep, Naresh, Aashrith, Shreyas, Bipin (Men’s team captain) Bottom row from Left: Suraj, Harsh, Saikumar, Vivek

Disclaimer: The views are not to be construed in any manner as the official views of IIT Madras.
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G Soorya

Learning lover, lucid however, lighten and listen you might like me forever!