The Prizewinners

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I may be challenged physically, not mentally. And this 17-hour expedition only proved it: Shekar.

P.V. Sindhu (AFP)

2019 has been a great year for these youngsters who have made us proud with their achievements in various fields including cycling, running and sailing. Let’s celebrate them.

P.V. Sindhu: The historic win

Hyderabad’s pride, P.V. Sindhu became the first Indian to win gold at the World Badminton Championship 2019, making it a moment of pride for all Indians.

Said Sindhu, “I’ve been to the finals in 2017 and 2018, but unfortunately, I ended as the second best on both occasions. But this time, I wanted to turn the tables, as it was important for me to push my game further. There’s no better time to do it than the grand finale.”

Sindhu’s also the joint-most successful women’s singles shuttler at the world meet, having won five medals in six appearances. “But how I’ve emerged and how my game has improved over the years are what matter most to me,” shares Sindhu.

Bhavana Kasturi: Woman in command

Lt. Commander Bhavana Kasturi was the first woman officer in the history of Indian Army to lead the Army Service Corps (ASC) contingent, comprising 144 male personnel, on the Republic Day (R-D) Parade this year. Speaking of the honour, Bhavana remembers how she was fascinated by the Army Khakis ever since she joined the NCC. Then, remembering the physical and mental challenges she had to endure as a part of her preparation for the R-D parade, the 26-year-old adds, “ I’ve been preparing for the event for the last few months. And one of the biggest challenges was to ensure my team remained motivated. I have to say that the entire contingent has been great, literally motivating each other to stay at the top of our game.”

Tulasi Chaitanya: Weathering storms

Tulasi Chaitanya, Head Constable, AP Police Department (Civil), from Vijayawada, scripted history by becoming the first Indian cop to swim across the Catalina Channel. Covering 35 kilometres, from Santa Catalina Island, one of California’s Channel Islands, to Mainland America, Tulasi swam the distance of in 12 hours and 40 minutes. He started at 10.30 pm and completed it the next morning at 11.10 am.

The spirited youngster, who’s bagged several gold medals in the World Police Games and other international competitions, credits his success to the police training he’s received. Thanking his coach Pradeep Kumar and Gautam Sawang (DGP, Andhra Pradesh) for their constant encouragement, he says, “They’ve been very instrumental in shaping my career and journey and have been constantly rooting for me.”

Tulasi is next eyeing the Gibraltar Strait.

Shekar goud: Moving mountains with faith

In August, Hyderabad’s Shekar Goud became the first triple amputee from India to scale Mount Elbrus, Russia’s highest peak. The 28-year-old wanted to disprove the notion that people with disabilities cannot do anything.

“I may be challenged physically, not mentally. And this 17-hour expedition only proved it,” describes Shekar.

A medical record assistant in a private company in Hyderabad, Shekar lost his left leg, toes on his right foot and his right hand to an accident a decade ago. “Being bedridden for several months made me restless, and I even attempted suicide twice,” reveals the mountaineer who eventually found hope in Swami Vivekananda’s lessons.

Shekar has set his sights on scaling Kilimanjaro next.

Dr Niharika: A rare honor!

As a part of the Trichy Randonneuring Club event, Dr Niharika became the first South-Indian to complete a 1000 km brevet on a ghat road (650 km ghat road and 350 km highway). She accomplished the feat in 70 hours and 30 minutes. “I rode non-stop for more than 50 hours and getting past the finishing line is a very emotional moment,” reflects the 42-year-old.  “Although the ride was extremely exhausting and grueling because of the soaring temperature, my husband has been constantly motivating me to up my ante.” she said.

Manasi Joshi: Paraphrasing a champion

Para-athlete Manasi Joshi clinched gold at the World Para-Badminton Championship in Basel, Switzerland, in September. The 30-year-old Gujarat athlete, who’s been training at the Gopichand Academy in Hyderabad, dedicated the medal to her parents, coaches and well-wishers. She said, “This win only indicates that people with disabilities can also hope to make a career in sports. More athletes must shed their inhibitions and come forward to prove their mettle and carry on this momentum,” says Manasi.

Despite the challenges of settling in a new city when she moved to Hyderabad in May 2018, Manasi, who’s a software engineer, reveals that Hyderabad holds a special place in her heart. “Badminton is something I’ve enjoyed since childhood, but this city upped my game and gave me a professional edge.”

Sasi Kanth: Scripting a cycling history

Sasi Kanth was the first Hyderabadi to participate in the prestigious Deccan Cliffhanger competition, tipped as India’s most popular yet the toughest ultracycle race. He completed the race in the solo category in 30 hours, two hours under the stipulated time finishing sixth among forty racers from across the country.

Sasi Kanth has earlier completed 200-km, 300-km, 400-km, 600-km and 1,000-km brevet rides.

Reflecting on the 645-km race, Sasi Kanth says, “I suffered a muscular tear during the ride and was in much pain. But I was determined to complete the race because all I remembered was the hard work my family and friends put in in supporting me. I’m just hugely grateful to have completed it under the stipulated time. It’s added to my self-confidence in my abilities.”

The finish qualifies Sasi Kanth in the world’s toughest race — Race across America (RAAM) — to be held next year.

Syamala Goli: Making a splash

This November, 47-year-old Syamala Goli became the first Telugu woman to cross Ganges at the 12th National Takshila Open Water Long Distance Ganga Swimming Competition in Patna, Bihar. The Hyderabadi crossed 13 km in 1 hour 50 minutes (from Siva Ghat to the Law College Ghat of river Ganga), finishing sixth among the 46 competitors. But what adds to her feat is the fact that Syamala took to swimming only at the age of 44!

She recollects how swimming helped her shed her inhibitions. And is grateful for the support that kept her going. “Without my husband and my son’s support, it would have been possible. I want to dedicate all my achievements to them. In fact, they sacrificed several things for my swimming,” she says. “I also want to thank my coach Ayush Yadav and Rajiv Trivedi, IPS (DGP, Prisons and Correctional Services, Telangana State) for inspiring and guiding me into freestyle swimming.” And recently, on 23 December, Syamala swam across the Howrah Bridge.

Dr Narender Reddy: A randonneurs’ family!

While it takes a lot to turn into a randonneur, Hyderabad’s Dr Narender Reddy’s passion for cycling rubbed on his family members too. They successfully completed the 200 kilometre long distance cycle ride from Hyderabad to Kamareddy and back in 12 hours and 40 minutes. In the process, they became the first randonneur family from the city to do so. Says Narender, “People still keep asking me how I motivated my family to come into cycling. Where there is a will there is a way. My wife and daughter were inspired by my passion on cycling and joined me.”

A senior scientist with city-based pharmaceutical company, Narender, has completed Super Randonneur (SR- 200,300,400, 600 and 1000km brevets). “I am also a Half Ironman finisher and these achievements only push me to do better,” he says.

Amgoth Tukaram: Spirited Mountainer

After successfully scaling Mount Kilimanjaro in July 2018 and Mount Everest in May this year, mountaineer sensation Amgoth Tukaram later scaled Mount Elbrus, the highest peak in Europe. He became the first guy from Telangana to scale these expeditions. “I wanted to scale all the seven expeditions. To be able to scale three of them in a span of two years is very satisfying,” says the 11-year-old who hails from Thakkallapally Thanda of Ranga Reddy district in Telangana. “Scaling any peak required a lot of patience because the fluctuating weather doesn’t allow us to keep going on. There are several start stops start stops. So self belief is the key to successful scaling. I draw my inspiration from Abdul Kalam sir,” explains Tukaram.

Preethi Kongara: Smooth sailing

In July, Hyderabad’s 14-year-old sailor Preethi Kongara who represents The Yacht Club of Hyderabad (YCH) stunned everyone with her fabulous performance as she won gold in the U-16 category of the maiden National Sailing Championship held in Hyderabad. This was just her third year of sailing! “The toughest part of the final was to adjust to the wind conditions and speed. I knew that if I could overcome those 20-odd minutes of litmus test, I can sail through,” recalls Preethi, a ninth-grade student, crediting her win to her coach Suheim Sheik. Preethi is now preparing for an international championship.

Ananya chouhan, Alekhya Maharaju: Girl power!

Ananya Chouhan and Alekhya Maharaju made India proud by representing India (maiden appearance) in J80 World Championship in Spain in July. While Ananya was a part of the Royal Madras Team that came third in the mixed category race, Alekhya was member of Team Yatra, which finished fourth in the all-women’s, category.

Ananya who was sailing a J80 boat for the first time, shares, “Initially we were a bit apprehensive because of the low wind speed, but thanks to our practise sessions, it made our work easy. It was a learning experience to work in a team and get to know about boat’s technical aspects and strategies.”
Alekhya adds that the win help augment her ranking in the International Sailing Federation (ISAF). “I was thrilled because this championship was my comeback to sailing circuit after eight years. This win gives me a great deal of confidence for my next championship next year.”

Prasad Wadepally: An epic feat

Prasad Wadepally gets a unique distinction — he became the first Indian to complete 100 days of cycling 100 km, in a year in January 2019. The 44-year-old who took to cycling in 2017, is ecstatic. “I still can’t believe that I completed it and I must first thank my family, my friends and my inspiration educationist Marri Laxman Reddy, under whom I work as a PA,” says Prasad, adding, “The fact that I went on to become a Super Randonneur — completing four Brevets (events) in one season — 200 km, 300 km, 400 km and 600 km – last year helped me build the endurance for the record breaking feat.” In June, he accomplished another feat of completing 200 days of cycling 100 km. “This is the icing on the cake,” expressed Prasad.

Ananya Garikipati: Teenage sensation!

Ananya Garikipati created history when she became the first Indian to win both the Gold and Silver medals at the Rhythmic Gymnastics Championship in Moscow in June. She performed for one-and-a half minute in Hoop, Ball, Clubs and Ribbon gymnastics. “My practice sessions were extensive, and also I was trained under Olympic champion and Coach Anna Gavrilenko, so that helped me to prepare better for bigger events,” reveals the Hyderabad teen, who is studying Grade XI student of Ganges Valley School.

The 16 year old, who took to Gymnastics at the age of six, says her mother was her greatest support. “She has been there from the beginning, supporting my interests. She also sacrificed a lot for my career.”

The young gymnast is next prepping up for Asian Championship.