Hyderabad teen Ananya Garikipati scripted history by becoming the first Indian to win both the Gold and Silver medals at the Rhythmic Gymnastics Championship in Moscow recently.
The 16-year-old credits her super success to hours of practice and hard work. “I had to practice for eight-nine hours (four hours each in the morning and evening) for the tournament. To be able to pull off something like this in Russia is really thrilling. This victory means a lot to me because it came at a time when I started preparing for the Asian Championship,” reveals Ananya, a Grade XI student of Ganges Valley School in Hyderabad.
Her one-and-a half minute performances in each — Hoop, Ball, Clubs and Ribbon — gymnastics enthralled the packed house. But Ananya, who had earlier performed in more 10 countries, including England and Singapore, confesses that she had to struggle to gain momentum. I was nervous before the start of the tournament. I had butterflies in my stomach as I had to compete against some of the world’s best rhythmic gymnasts. But as it progressed, I grew in confidence and started to understand the conditions better. Still, I never thought I would win it,” she expresses.
Interestingly, when she was in Moscow, Ananya trained under Olympic champion and coach Anna Gavrilenko, who continues to talk to her via Skype now that the young gymnast is back in India. “When I went to play in Uzbekistan, I had the opportunity to meet Gavrilenko. She was impressed with my work and agreed to train me,” recalls Ananya, who shares that sports have always fascinated her.
“I was introduced to gymnastics at age six when I saw my classmates doing the same. Although I told my mother that I was interested in learning it, she wasn’t welcoming initially,” Ananya recalls, adding, “But later, she understood my passion for gymnastics and started nurturing me.”
During her decade-long journey, Ananya has won several medals on international circuits, even as she credits the sport with giving her tremendous exposure. Adding that gymnastics helped her to shed her inhibitions, she states, “The game changed the way I look at life. I was a shy and timid girl, but now I am outspoken and very expressive. Gymnastics made me a better person. I have learnt to toughen up and realised that we can't win all the matches. But it’s a great confidence booster.”
The spirited youngster admits that balancing studies and gymnastics is a challenge, but adds, “My mother Padmaja is able to plan and organise everything for me. I had to endure a lot physically and mentally, but if it wasn’t for my mother’s support, I wouldn’t have come this far.”
Interestingly, her 16th birthday on May 26 turned out to be one of the most memorable ones as she celebrated it during the final in Moscow. “I did not want to compete on my birthday, but I had to,” quips the youngster, who composes her own routine — ‘Queen Old Classics’. “But it was a special day as I won a special prize for my elegant artistry routines and brilliant apparatus handling,” says the young gymnast as she signs off....