Revisiting the 56th Inter IIT Sports Meet – Part 1

The Inter-IIT Meets started in 1961, with the hope of strengthening the bonds between the fellow national institutes. The Inter-IIT Sports Meet is the oldest of them all. With 56 Sports Meets having taken place till now, the General Championship trophy is a rich piece of heritage, passed on from generation to generation of students. It has seen countless sportspeople give their blood, sweat and tears for it. Within this grand history, having won 24 out of the 56 GC trophies, IIT Madras has stood out like no other.  

However, IIT Madras had failed to bring home the GC cup for 12 years now. With years of heritage on the line, this year’s athletes had their work cut out for them. 

In this series, we take a look at the best memories and moments for the IITM contingent at the Inter-IIT Sports Meet 2023, which culminated in the securing of the General Championship.


Every team went through its own trials and tribulations on their way to Inter-IIT. Throughout the semester, each team scheduled daily practice sessions, with many teams having them in the early morning. “We had practice throughout the semester from 5:30am everyday so that no player would have to skip the sessions due to other commitments. In almost every session, all seventeen of us were there and practising. No one gave any excuses – it was really impressive!” says Navneet, a member of the Madras Garibos, the hockey team of IITM. “Going to the field at a specific time, training, really gives a lot of direction, a lot of meaning to your life,” says Nikshep, a member of the Madras Wolves, our football team. And if the semester was hectic enough, the worst was yet to come.

During the winter break, Cyclone Michaung hit. Almost every team was affected in their practice. The hockey ground got so soaked that the team was not able to play for the month and a half leading up to Inter-IIT. “When we went to Bombay, we were joking that we should just be thankful that we have a field to play on,” said Navneet, laughing. “Our court got completely flooded during the cyclone. We literally had to pump out all the water and silt,” said Ananya Prakash, a member of Madras Warhawks, the tennis team of IITM. The athletics team was in a similar situation. With Watsa Stadium having turned into a lake, they had no place to practise for an entire week of their main camp. Their only choice was to train solely in the gym. “We started training on the hostel staircases at one point,” recalled Yuva, a member of the athletics team. The situation was worse for the Madras Falcons, IITM’s badminton team; they couldn’t even make their way to the court! With the road to SAC flooded, they had no choice but to wade through knee-deep, murky water just to get to their courts. “One day, the coach called a JCB, and we went in it to SAC,” recalled Dia, the vice-captain of the women’s badminton team. “We all stood in the front part, and it just lifted us! It was an experience of a lifetime,” she said. 

Madras Garibos – Hockey (M)

Bronze winners – Men’s hockey, Inter IIT 2023

“We had a really painful group stage exit last year (2022),” recalls Navneet, a member of the Madras Garibos, the men’s hockey team of IIT Madras. With the team not getting time to practise due to floods as well, the stakes were higher than ever. 

“This year, we got through the group stages fairly easily. Our quarter-final was with IIT BHU, a very strong team which has been on the podium in the last few years. We knew it was going to be tough,” states Navneet. From the opening whistle, it was clear that this wasn’t going to be an ordinary match. “It was probably the most physically exhausting game I’ve ever played. Most of our team was playing off of pure adrenaline.” The team went a goal down, but were somehow able to claw their way back, scoring a goal to equal the playing field again. Finally, it all came down to penalties. 

“Through pure willpower, we were able to claw back one goal and we took it to penalties – and the penalties were crazy,” recounts Navneet. The field was full. Intense cheers and anti-cheers flew back and forth from both crowds. “Trishul, our goalkeeper, produced magic that day,” says Navneet. One penalty after another, not a single goal was scored by IIT BHU. “I couldn’t bring myself to look during the last penalty,” says Navneet, but when he turned back, the victory was complete. Trishul had saved all five of the penalties, and the Madras team had won the game. The whole contingent burst into celebration. They had gone to the semi-finals! 

Prashant, the captain of the men’s hockey team, believes that maintaining team bonding was the highlight of his captaincy. “As a captain, I tried to ensure that every player had a say in the team. I was strict, but only on the ground. For example, we had a fine for latecomers – this money was to be spent on a team treat later. This ensured that everyone was punctual and disciplined. Even on the ground, the hierarchy wasn’t absolute. If I did something wrong, my juniors had the right to call me out.” Prashant recalls that, in the crucial match against IIT BHU, he kept going forward to the offence side because of habit, leaving the defence side weak. His junior told him to go back to his position politely a few times to no heed. In a moment of panic, the junior screamed at him – which worked in bringing Prashant back to his senses. Prashant appreciated this.

“We went on to clinch bronze against a very strong IIT Delhi, and we hope to clinch gold next time!” says Navneet. 

Madras Hulks – Weightlifting (M)

Fourth place – Men’s weightlifting, Inter IIT 2023

Silver medal (77kg+): Eugene Vincent  

Silver medal (Under-62kg): Aryan

Fourth place (Under-56kg): Prithviraj

“We returned to campus in December 2021. Our NSO sessions started in January 2022 – that was when we were first formally introduced to weightlifting!” says Kathir Pagalavan, captain of Madras Hulks, the IIT Madras men’s weightlifting team.  

IITM’s weightlifting coach, Mr. Rajasekhar, has been in the sport for a long time. He has coached Karnam Malleshwari, the first female Indian Olympic medallist, and has been a coach at IITM for more than 20 years. “Eugene, one of our weightlifting silver medallists this year, started off with powerlifting and is now one of the potential record holders in Inter-IIT weightlifting. Our other silver medallist, Aryan, was a trained wrestler, having trained in akhadas,” says Kathir. 

There are five categories of participation in Inter IIT weightlifting. Each category involves several competitive lifts of two kinds – the snatch and the clean-and-jerk. Participants get three calls for each lift, with the weights progressively increasing. “Showcasing their best performances during Inter IIT, our weightlifters Prithviraj and Aryan clinched fourth place in the under-56 category and the silver medal in the under-62 category respectively,” says Ankit, a member of Madras Hulks. 

The Madras Hulks’ hopes then rested on Eugene Vincent. One of the weightlifters from IIT Kanpur had set a high bar by successfully lifting 106 kg in his final snatch attempt. Eugene, needing to surpass this to contend for the gold, aimed for 110 kg, a weight he had managed only once before. The pressure was immense, with every IIT’s eyes fixed upon him. Despite the weight of expectations, Eugene’s attempt at 110 kg fell short, placing him in the silver position behind the IIT Kanpur participant. 

To secure the gold, Eugene would need to outperform his competitor in the clean and jerk. To everyone’s surprise, he managed to lift a staggering 120 kg on his first attempt. Continuing his impressive performance, Eugene opted for 126 kg in his second attempt, executing another powerful clean and jerk. However, chaos ensued as IIT Guwahati started introducing even heavier weights to the bar.

After the weightlifter from IIT Guwahati fell out, Eugene found himself once again pitted against the IIT Kanpur weightlifter, trailing by just a few kilograms. He was faced with the challenge of lifting 142 kg, a substantial increase from his previous attempt. After his competitor cleaned it, Eugene summoned all his strength for one final effort. As the whole gym held their breath with him, he gave a mighty pull, and somehow, miraculously, cleaned the weight successfully! But the exertion left him absolutely spent; Eugene blacked out. There was applause as he was carried to the side. While he didn’t get the gold and secured the silver instead, Eugene’s courageous display earned him admiration from all across the IIT community. 

“I feel that weightlifting is not as popular as other sports in insti, due to a lack of awareness. I am trying to change this. The general perception is that it involves a very steep learning curve, since it takes at least six months to get the technique right,” says Kathir. In the coming years, Inter IIT may also have women’s weightlifting. The team is already making plans to introduce women’s weightlifting in the NSO sessions, and is also trying to bring back bodybuilding as a mainstream activity. 

Madras Eagles – Volleyball (M&W)

Gold winners – Men’s volleyball, Inter IIT 2023

Bronze winners – Women’s volleyball, Inter IIT 2023

Best player (M): Alphen Kriston

The men’s volleyball team has had a stellar record for the last two years. After winning the bronze medal last year, they followed up with a gold in 2023. This year, the team started practising early in the summer to compensate for the time that would be lost during placement season, with many players in their final year. Vaibhav, the vice captain, believes that despite the lack of practice due to the cyclone and multiple members of the team sitting for placements, the team’s ambitions for this year were just as high.  

The first match the team played together in a month was also the first match they played at   Inter IIT. “Our first few games were very rough. After beating IIT Gandhinagar, IIT Kharagpur, IIT Ropar and IIT BHU, we made it to the semi-finals, where we faced IIT Delhi once again – after having lost to them in the semi-finals last year by just one point. This year my boys played very well. We defeated Delhi (3-0),” says Joel Joseph, captain of the men’s volleyball team. 

Next, the team faced IIT Roorkee, the current champions, in the finals. In a dominant display, the final game was again won 3-0 by Madras, bringing home a gold for men’s volleyball after more than a decade. 

When asked about bonding with other IITs, Joel says, “While you should always have that competitive spirit during the game, everyone is very friendly outside the court.” 

The women’s volleyball team won a bronze medal in Inter-IIT 2023. Dakshita, captain of the women’s volleyball team, says, “Team sports are interdependent: you spend a lot of time together and are highly dependent on your teammates. It is essential for the team to be close to win, the players need to be able to read each other. For most people, team bonding is not a separate effort, it just happens in the pursuit of the sport—passion is all that matters.”

She would not miss practice even a day before placement tests, she says. “I wasn’t doing it out of obligation towards my captaincy, nor because I wanted to meet my friends. What brings the team together is the love of the sport.” 

During the floods, volleyball practice came to a standstill, but the team kept in touch and met in hostel rooms to work out. After a while, they got the chance to use the SAC badminton court as a makeshift court. They used JCBs to travel on the SAC road and reach the court.

During Inter-IIT 2023, the team was confident. The real challenge arrived when the quarter-finals and semi-finals were scheduled on the same day. This was unexpected as the group stage matches had happened on different days. “Our team has two attackers, a very important position. Before the quarter-finals one of them got injured and could not play. We had to improvise; people changed positions. Because of this, the match was stressful and extremely tiring, but we won. We were physically and mentally exhausted. Next, the semi-finals were against IIT Kanpur. Madras lost the fifth set after a very tough fight. I feel that we could have done better if we had strategized better and practised keeping in mind potential injuries and substitutions.” Nevertheless, in the third and fourth place match, the Madras women’s volleyball team went on to win against IIT BHU, securing the bronze medal. 

Madras Stags – Basketball (M&W)

Gold winners – Women’s basketball, Inter IIT 2023

Best player (F): Saga

The women’s basketball team had had a disappointing outing in Inter IIT 2022. While playing in the unfamiliar Delhi cold at 5 degrees Celsius, they had faced a bitter, unexpected loss. 

This year, the motivation going into the tournament was low. Many players were in their final year, and with the cyclone having also affected their main camp, the team went into the tournament with the resolve to enjoy every match for its own sake. However, with multiple new players, and with everyone at the peak of their health, the team was at its maximum potential. The team easily made their way through to the quarter-finals, where they were to face IIT Kharagpur. 

The game started out badly for IIT Madras. They quickly fell behind in the first half but somewhat made up the gap towards halftime. “Kharagpur had one very good player who was carrying the game,” said Avani, captain of the IIT Madras women’s basketball team. It was time to switch up their strategy. After the break, Ria switched in. “Ria can’t be beaten on defence,” Avani said proudly. The strategy was simple. Ria was sent to man mark the player from Kharagpur, and the game flipped. Madras closed in rapidly and got the win!

The finals came soon after, against IIT Bombay. Towards the last few seconds, IIT Madras held a slim, single digit lead. Rithwin, captain of the men’s team, speaks about the women’s basketball finals, “We were down 8 points going into the last two minutes when our best player hit a clutch three to cut it down to 5. In an insane endgame run, we tied the game and in the last seconds we managed to pull up with a game winner. What a sight for sore eyes.” IITM came out triumphant in the tournament, winning their first gold in women’s basketball in a long time.

The men’s basketball team won their group-stage match against IIT Bhilai. However, they lost the quarterfinals against IIT Delhi. “All the other teams were there to cheer during our matches, and that really helped us win the crucial moments because, during such moments, you become the best version of yourself, and you play much better,” says Vedant. 

When asked about practice, Rithwin says, “It’s a year-long process. Team practice sessions take place four times a week starting from the odd semester. We try to find talent through various tournaments conducted throughout campus and mould them by making them join practice and giving them enough match practice via outside tournaments. Diet, exercise and game play are three crucial components in the life of any athlete. The challenge lies in bringing the 12-15 probable players into the same routine. Streamlining everyone was a challenge that persists till date. Overall, we managed to pull in good hours at the court and as a very new team compared to last year, we set up a base for the coming years.”

Rithwin says, “Being a sportsperson was all I wanted to be when I was in school. I lost two years of Inter IIT due to Covid, but during the two years I’ve played, it was the very best. Three hours on court everyday is the unpaid therapy I signed up for. When I look back at my four years here, basketball is what I would remember and be remembered for. Inter IIT is hands down the best experience in college. Participating is an honour – representing your college in an esteemed tournament that has been going on for so many years. Winning is another feeling which not many can experience at the tournament. We were second at Inter IIT’22, a memory for a lifetime. I’d leave my juniors with one piece of advice: pick up a sport and try to make it to Inter IIT.”

Madras Falcons – Badminton (M&W)

Bronze winners – Women’s badminton, Inter IIT 2023

The men’s badminton team won their pool stage matches as well as the pre-quarterfinals. However, challenges arose during the quarter-finals, with several key players facing health issues and injuries. Despite their earnest efforts, they encountered difficulties in executing their game plan at their usual standard, losing 3-1 against IIT Jodhpur. “It was a good experience for us. We learnt how to handle high-pressure situations,” says Om, vice-captain of the team. 

Chinmaya, captain of the team, says, “Inter IIT has been the highlight of my four years in IIT. Coming out from lockdown, Inter IIT and Inter IIT practice have given me unparalleled joy and purpose, which even led to growth academically. The bonds forged during Inter IIT are very strong.”

The women’s badminton team won the bronze medal in Inter IIT 2023. After a narrow loss against IIT Kharagpur in the semi-finals, the team went on to win their next match against IIT Roorkee. Avani, captain of the team says, “We realised the impact that anti-cheering can have on a player’s performance. Playing against IIT Delhi on their home ground the previous year, we had won by a narrow margin, but this time the game against the same team early in the tournament felt much easier. It is very important to see anti-cheering as just background noise, and to be mentally prepared before stepping onto the court.” Chinmaya echoes this sentiment, stating that one of the main things Inter IIT teaches people is that sometimes things can be unpredictable and that it is important to face situations head on. He recalls a fond memory from Inter IIT 2022, during which one of the IITM players was matched against a stronger opponent, but still managed to win the game due to his calmness and resolve. “He was executing everything that the coach and captain told him perfectly, and he managed to win that game.”

When asked about practice, Chinmaya says, “Badminton practice sessions were something that kept me motivated in life throughout – they kept me sane throughout. As a captain, ensuring regularity and keeping motivation levels high was challenging, due to our stressful academic schedules. Otherwise, the months leading up to Inter IIT were blissful.” Talking about bonding between the men’s and women’s badminton teams, Avani says, “We’re one of the few teams that does everything together – because we have three practice sessions, our bonding is on a different level. I am wowed by how much this team has done – usually people give excuses when their captain tells them to come practice, but this team attended every session diligently. Coming to IIT and practising this hard was not something I had expected.”

Madras Vipers – Table Tennis (M&W)

Gold winners – Women’s table tennis, Inter IIT 2023

Gold winners – Men’s table tennis, Inter IIT 2023

Best player (F): Marie Lafontaine

Best player (M): Nishant Vasan

“I have been passionate about table tennis for years and represented Karnataka for two years,” says Nishant, captain of the IITM men’s table tennis team. In Inter IIT 2022, the team clinched the gold medal in table tennis, breaking a nearly decade-long drought. “This year, I had to confront a fresh set of challenges, including managing my injury recovery and captaincy responsibilities,” says Nishant. Despite the hurdles, the Madras Vipers entered the Inter IIT arena with determination, aiming not for just one but two gold medals. 

“Our journey in Inter IIT started with victories. However, expectations weighed heavily during the quarter-finals against IIT BHU as I grappled with the pressure of defending our title. A pep talk from my ex-captain reignited my confidence, propelling us to a hard-fought victory,” recalls Nishant. 

The semi-finals, against IIT Guwahati, posed their hardest challenge yet, but the team fought hard, overcoming the odds to secure a crucial win. The exhilaration of defying expectations fueled their determination heading into the finals against IIT Kanpur. In a thrilling showdown, they emerged triumphant, securing the second consecutive gold medal for men’s table tennis. 

“I was a nationally ranked player before college, but I had left the sport 5 years ago. It was only a couple of months into my first semester that I went to the Gymkhana with some friends and played in insti for the first time. From then on, there was no turning back,” says Shreya, a first-year member of the IIT Madras women’s table tennis contingent. “I went into practice with a single-minded dedication. After hearing that I could help win the gold in Inter-IIT, that was all I could think about. I even wrote about it in my Life Skills assignments!” she says, laughing. 

“Back in Japan, I played table tennis professionally for nine years,” says Marie Lafontaine, a Japanese student pursuing her MA in the HSS department at IITM, and another member of the IITM women’s table tennis team. “When we saw Marie akka play for the first time, we were all blown away,” says Shreya. 

In Bombay, the IITM women’s table tennis team sailed through the first few matches, making it to the finals. Marie won her singles match – now, to secure the gold, the Madras team would need to win one more match. The doubles match began with Shreya and Marie facing IIT Kanpur. The game was intense, going well past 11 points. “I was tense throughout the game. I kept expecting them to miss every shot. But once it got past 10 points, a sense of calm came over me. I felt different from how I had felt during any other game in the entire tournament. I realised that it would come down to who could last longer,” says Shreya. Thus, a battle of attrition began. The score inched further and further up, with neither side willing to budge. Finally, with a small breakthrough, IIT Madras found themselves up by a point (15-14). “I told Marie akka not to worry, that we would definitely be able to break through.” The opponents served, and as luck would have it, the ball spun out. “Marie akka started jumping and hugged me. I hadn’t even realised it, but by winning that match we had won the gold medal!” said Shreya. One of the IITM men’s table tennis players turned around, and shouted, “TWO GOLDS!”

“Playing through immense pain had become my norm, but the triumph of securing two consecutive gold medals, a feat not achieved by our Table Tennis team in over 25 years, made every sacrifice worthwhile. For me, the greatest reward was not the individual victories, but the opportunity to contribute significantly to our Grand Championship (GC) victory after over a decade. These are memories that will be cherished for a lifetime,” says Nishant.

Madras Sharks – Aquatics (M&W)

Gold winners – Men’s water polo, Inter IIT 2023

Fourth Position – Men’s swimming, Inter IIT 2023

Fifth Position: Women’s swimming, Inter IIT 2023

“Ye machuare hai, inko yaha se hatao,” (get these fishermen out of here) said one of the senior members of the IIT Bombay aquatics contingent as some members of the IITM contingent accidentally photobombed their team picture. This incident occurred just days before the water polo finals between Bombay and Madras, leaving them feeling disrespected, though they refrained from verbal retaliation.

“The night before the finals, following a close encounter against IIT Kharagpur in the semifinals, we gathered in one of the hostel rooms with 18 of us, including the team and the alumni,” recalls Sriram, the captain of the water polo team. “Despite not being at our peak performance, we knew we were the stronger team. The Sharks alumni who had come to support us in the meet were aware of that, too. We engaged in a three-hour-long discussion, analysing our strengths and weaknesses, clarifying internal miscommunications, strategising for the finals, and receiving motivational pep talks from the alumni. We were primed and ready to face IIT Bombay the next day and give it our all.”

“We reclaimed our dignity in the right way,” Siddhant continued, “and emerged victorious with scores of 3-0, 8-3, and 10-6. This victory was followed by a jubilant celebration as the alumni joyously jumped into the pool. Some team members then approached the senior member and uttered the now-famous words, ‘We are the fishermen who win.’ Mic drop. These are the moments one dreams of.”

The Inter IIT Aquatics Meet took place in October 2023. One notable difference from other sports events is its timing – occurring in the midst of the semester, it is isolated from other sports. “It exists within its own tiny aquatics bubble, resulting in less cross-sports bonding but fostering immense camaraderie within the aquatics community. While strong bonds are forged with other Inter-IIT teams, the downside lies in the lack of awareness from the wider institute community due to its timing away from other sports events, resulting in limited attention and follow-up,” says Kavya, a member of the Madras Sharks. 

Siddhant says, “We train for six hours daily in the months leading up to inter IIT. Managing this with other responsibilities is difficult. I was a head at Avishkar Hyperloop, and we often had to work late at night. On days like these, I would pull all-nighters, go to practice in the morning, and then sleep through the afternoon. Academics took a toll that semester, but I got off easy by securing a B in most courses. This is real hard work.”

Kavya echoes this sentiment, saying, “It’s tough at times, but I believe the effort put in here pays off. There’s stiff competition from other IITs; many participants have experience in national competitions. Winning a medal (bronze, 50m breaststroke) validated my efforts in such a competitive environment . I doubted if sports were my thing and if I could do it. Last year was my first competitive swimming experience; I thought I couldn’t compete this year against national swimmers. But to compete against them and still win a medal this year gave me immense confidence.”

Nachiketh Grandhi

A student of Engineering Design in IIT Madras. Interested in education, sustainable technologies, and agriculture.

Anbarasi Pugalenthi

life is like an article, there is always something to edit in it.

Ankita Murthy
Aditi Rathore
Ananya Prakash

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