Design: Shaurya Rawat
Gymkhana day is conducted every year in honour of the institute’s best athletes, captains, convenors, and the Sports Organising Committee for their contribution to the sporting scene. This year, a “Gymkhana Week” is organised from 11th-15th of May. In recognition, T5E conducted interviews of some of the star performers of IITM’s Women Sports contingent. Let’s hear it from Kamala, Breasha, and Roshni, who have time and again brought insti laurels through their dedication, commitment, and hard work.
T5E: How did you get into swimming?
Kamala: I used to swim at a very young age when I was hardly two years old. My stint with swimming started off casually, it was just like going to any other class. I used to swim till I was seven or eight years old after which I stopped to get into dance. By that point, I had gotten into professional training but I didn’t do competitions.
I got back into swimming a decade later when I came to insti. In my first year here, when I tried out for NSO I was asked to come for team practice and here I am now.
T5E: How have the women’s general championships been for the Aquatics team?
Kamala: I joined the Women’s aquatics team right at the moment when they had started to make a name for themselves. I joined the team in 2015. The year before had been the first podium finish for the team. A senior PhD student, Gayathri had done really well in her first year and they had also managed to get a Relay gold which boosted them to bronze.
Madras Sharks, our team, is well known in the aquatic community. But, women teams hadn’t done that well in previous years and we wanted to put our names out there and be formidable. That pushed us to better our timings; we started training and setting benchmarks for ourselves.
Apart from retaining the gold, we also set our sights on breaking the relay record. We always look to improve individual timings and push ourselves for overall gold. That fire has been there right from the beginning in the whole team. I think this helped us clinch the overall championship in the past four years and spearheaded us towards winning the Women’s GC as well.
T5E: How intense are your practice sessions?
Kamala: Our practice sessions are pretty intense. We only have two months, maybe three if we start in the summer. We practice for around four to five hours every day.
We swim for one and a half hours in the morning, starting from 5:30 am. After classes again we meet at 5:30 pm and it will go on till 8.
T5E: How do you motivate yourself to show consistent performance?
Kamala: My motivation stems from two things: One is the legacy that the team carries. I haven’t spoken a lot with any of the senior members who built the team name. But the legacy that they have left behind is so grand that at the end of the day I don’t want to feel that I have let them down by not performing.
Secondly, it is my own personal characteristic where I want to do my best. I don’t want to just put minimum effort and not shine. Another aspect that helps us is that since we are always keen on bettering our timings and records we don’t worry much about our competitors. We know where we stand and how much we can achieve, we just push ourselves towards it.
T5E: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Kamala: Winners shine because of their commitment, determination and hard work. This alone doesn’t help though. Every victory is bolstered by the team, the effort of the coaches, the pool Annas, PTIs, everyone. The team should be extremely supportive in pushing you to do your best. I think our team especially has that. The team culture is very, very important and it is one of the reasons why we are where we are. People say you need to fail to learn. But these last two years when I got all golds, were the years of extreme learning for me. I have learnt about the levels of my perseverance, determination, hard work and also how much I can push myself.
All of my team members have helped me, but one of them I would like to mention here is Gayathri. She was the captain when I was in my first year. Regardless of me being a junior, and that I slowly overtook her, she has always supported me, pushed me to do better and go for the record. She has always been there. My other teammates both boys and girls have also always motivated me, by giving me tips about stroke correction, pushing me to do better in-ground exercises and even by being competitors. All these things have been extremely helpful.
Looking back, it has been quite a journey. In school, I was known as a dancer but here I am known as a swimmer. Everybody will say that the team is family. It’s cliched but it’s true. Swimming has become a part of my life.
T5E: How did you get into Badminton?
Roshni: I was very lucky as a kid! I used to play a lot and I was very fortunate to have badminton courts close to my home. I started playing tournaments and went for district matches during high school. I also used to play basketball on the side. But I stopped playing in 11th and 12th to prepare for JEE.
Sports always used to motivate me. That is something I have been passionate about ever since I was a kid. The satisfaction I get is different and it is still continuing.
I didn’t expect that I would get to play after coming to insti. The first day I saw SAC with four courts I was ecstatic. The first week I came to insti, I went and approached the captains and they told me to come for practice. Initially, I didn’t know about Inter-IIT, but I soon learnt that they have a team and then it became a routine.
T5E: What do you think is the present girls’ sports scene in insti?
Roshni: We have a mixed crowd. There are a lot of people who are very much into sports and there are some who aren’t. I think given the academic schedule we have it can get difficult to balance both. First-year is the time when you should really push for sports. If you don’t start trying early, later on, things get very busy and you would have to struggle to make time to play.
If not every day and during quiz week, I feel it is very important for anyone to be involved in any physical activity for at least 2 to 3 days a week. That’s something that’s going to give a balance to our body. Friends could also pool in together and play something.
It need not be as rigorous as the amount of training we do for Inter-IIT, but just enough for you to get that joy and satisfaction from playing. That is something that sport can give you.
T5E: How intense are the practice sessions?
Roshni: It is very intense. During the odd semester, we practice from 6 – 9 in the evening. In the mornings we’ll go to the stadium from 6-7:30 AM. We’ll also go to the gym from 10-12:30 every Saturday. Apart from this, we will have a Mini-camp just before end-sems, which happens for around 10 -14 days when we do both morning and evening sessions. During the main camp, right before Inter-IIT, we do three sessions. It is very very tiring. All we do is sleep, eat and play.
Sometimes during the semester, it gets hard because you are physically very tired and being mentally focused is hard. When your body is tired, all you want to do is sleep. In my first year, I found it very difficult. But now my seniors and friends are always there to help me. I have watched and learnt a lot from my seniors. I have now slowly learnt how much time I need to give for sport and how to balance.
T5E: How is the women’s sports scene in insti right now?
Breasha: It has been growing a lot in the past few years. One good thing that a lot of teams have adopted is building players.
Initially, we relied a lot on talent, on people who come here knowing how to play. Now, we are really building players from scratch.
There are a lot of sports where we look for more participation, especially freshies and PGs to come out and play. Even if they are not good for this year, we make the good for the upcoming years. An example is how I got into the swimming team. They made me go through a really intense process and have drastically reduced my timing.
T5E: How intense are practice sessions for Inter IITs?
Breasha: This depends a lot from sport to sport. Swimming is very intense because we also didn’t have the pool. It was around four hours. But in other sports like tennis, we try to keep it short and effective. We practice for around two and a half hours daily.
T5E: What are your learnings from each sport you have played?
Breasha: In Chess, I was the only girl in the entire team. Firstly it was a bit awkward. But I learnt a lot there. The team didn’t get a lot of support from our own college and other colleges as well. So it was about how you settle into such an environment and practice hard with people who are extremely enthusiastic about it. It was a fun experience!
Tennis is very different. Tennis I have a lot of personal attachment. I won silver in my 1st and 2nd year, I lost to the same girl in finals both the years. I badly wanted to win that gold this year.
I think it is just that drive where you keep putting efforts again and again just to reach one milestone that you make for yourself.
Swimming taught me a lot, it taught me hard work. It’s pure hard work. It is physically really challenging to go swim for 1.5 hrs or more. You have to keep yourself self-driven and just keep doing it.
T5E: What can be done to promote women’s participation?
I think we need to go step by step. Firstly we need to identify sports that women already play, that we haven’t identified yet. You’ll find that a lot of girls play carrom. You first have to identify what girls actually like to do. And it’s very easy to assume. To give you an example, I conducted martial arts and skating workshops and I got the biggest turnout for them. I was surprised! These are not things we would expect.
Second, we need to get girls involved in sports thinking that it’s not a compulsion. I want people to feel what I feel when I am on the court. I think the minute we can gauge their interest and get them into the system, sports will take care of the rest.
One thing I found common among the interviews was that glimmer in their eyes at the mention of the games they play. These people are a few among the many who have not let their sporting spirit get buried under other commitments. I hope that this article helps all those shoes, rackets, jerseys and balls gathering dust in our rooms to see the light of their courts once again.