In 2007, when Libas Sadhique won her first national championship for weightlifting, more than the medal, what wooed her was the idea of silencing her criticisers.
Now, after over a decade, the Kochi resident is all set to gear up for her maiden Asian powerlifting championship that will kickstart on April 20 in Hong Kong — as the only woman athlete from Kerala in the Indian team. The mother of two confesses that the power-packed journey was never a cakewalk.
Libas discovered her natural flair for weightlifting while she was in college. “We all have a specific interest in various sports events. Mine was unique because weightlifting was a male-dominated sport back then. I happened to try lifting weights and found it interesting. That was the start,” she laughs.
But it took Libas more than normal family conversations to convince others. The Muslim community she belonged to was against her wish to participate in weightlifting though her parents were glad to support her. “It was not easy. The constraints around me were not too easy to shed. I think they made a big deal of it than it should have been. But I guess those still haven’t really hit me. After my first competition at Thodupuzha Newman College, where I was an under-graduate, I knew I had a lot of support there,” she recalls.
For Libas, that was a big moment. “Had I let those unwanted constraints rule me, I wouldn’t have become the person I am now,” she says. During her under-graduation days, Libas was not aware of the risks of the sport and the challenges she had to face. “My trainer at college was confident in me, but the amount of hard work for lifting the weight demanded a lot from me.”
In between, she changed her focus from weightlifting to powerlifting. By then, she had won a medal at the national powerlifting championships in 2007 in the junior category. “Though both appear the same at the first glance, the most obvious difference is between the competition lifts. Weightlifting uses the snatch-clean-jerk, all overhead movements, powerlifting uses the squat-bench press-deadlift moves, none of those directed vertically overhead. Powerlifting is more challenging and I felt it suited me well than weightlifting.”
After marriage, Libas had to take a long break, of 11 years! With her daughters, Hana Fatin, 11, and Rida Minaal, 5, Libas had thought that her career was at stake. But last year, she returned to the gym; thanks to her husband Saadhique Ali, who is a businessman and a film producer. “He is very supportive. I never thought I would come back. Last year, we went to the facility at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kaloor. Change was hard. I had to adjust my weight and consulted a dietitian. I had to be very careful, both with my practice and diet.”
She is aware that powerlifting is not everyone’s cup of tea. “But once you sign up aiming to achieve something, there is no turning back. I practise daily for hours and take care of my family. I love challenges; that’s what makes me tough. The biggest blessing for me is my loving family which is very supportive. I try to spend time with them in between my busy training,” says Libas, who trains under Krishnakumar C., former national champion and record holder.
Libas’s journey is an inspiration to women who hesitate to come out of their family and follow their dreams after marriage. “There are few feelings better than self-confidence. Whatever challenges life throws at you, believe that you can handle it all. Facing a challenge, overcoming it, and emerging stronger is a very rewarding process,” she feels.
Libas, who used to be a teacher, is also very fond of adventurous sports such as paragliding and skydiving. She has been riding bikes for a long time and is part of a woman riders club. She next plans a bike ride to the Himalayas. Her inspirational life story and cliché-breaking decisions have stirred a hornet’s nest many a time. But the biggest cheers are saved for the moment she gets the bar over her shoulders cleanly!...