Hyderabad: Budda Aruna Reddy sprinted, soared, somersaulted and landed on the Gymnastics World Cup podium, the first Indian to take the pride of place at the prestigious event held in Melbourne recently. With that bronze medal, the Hyderabad girl vaulted into the hearts of sports lovers in the country. Aruna started as a karate kid “at the age of three and switched to gymnastics at the insistence of my karate master when I was seven.”
“More than me, my father was interested in sport. Dad always wanted a son. But with two girls, he guided my sister into studies and sent me to play. At 10, I won a national medal and took sports seriously,” she told this newspaper on Thursday.
It all started at Hyderabad’s Lal Bahadur Stadium “under Swarnalatha madam.” Then it was “Ravinder sir and now Brij Mohan sir who coached me.” Her home in Rajendranagar is 11 kilometres from the Stadium and Aruna has been using public transport (bus) to reach LBS whenever she is not attending the national camp in Delhi.
That will surely change now. More pressing is the need to refurbish the Gymnastics Hall at the LBS, which is in a poor state. The false ceiling can fall anytime — it has already given in twice. The foam pit is dust infested and has been causing allergies to trainees.
Much like her gymnastics routine, life has been full of twists and turns for Aruna, moreso after the demise of her father when she was only 14, from which age she has been looking after her homemaker mother via cash incentives and prize money won at gymnastics, her only source of income. “After my father died, there was no income in our home. We used to make do with the prize money I won at competitions,” the 22-year-old said.
The flow of funds wasn’t a monthy affair, “but about annual. Among the big sums, I got `8 lakh at the 2015 National Games, before that, Rs 5 lakh and for the Commonwealth Games participation, Rs 3 lakh,” Aruna informed.
“My sister Pavani — a Company Secretary who is 12 years older to me and had got married two years before our father’s demise — and brother-in-law (Janardhan Reddy, a civil contractor) who live next door have also been helping us in emergencies,” Aruna added.
“Life was very comfortable as long as my father was around. I went to school, then to the gym and was at play. Dad used to look after all other things. After his demise, I was on my own, feeling responsible for my career, dealing with and sorting out the many problems and moving on in life,” the toughie said.
In terms of support, it has always come from family, coaches and friends. “I wanted to discontinue gymnastics after my father passed away but my sister, brother-in-law and mother kept me going. Two years later, I got into the Indian camp and things looked up. Support from the Sports Authority of India and coach Bisweswar Nandi sir was always there. Now, I am in the central government’s TOPS Scheme (that aids potential medallists at Olympics). TOPS helped me train abroad and enhance my routines.”
Aruna also doesn’t forget the encouragement she received from institutions where she studied. “The managements of St Mary’s Colleges in Basheerbagh and Yousufguda, where I did my Intermediate and Degree, were ever helpful when it came to attendance. I would buy books in February and take exams in March,” she chuckles. And the grades? “80 per cent!” exclaims the Commerce graduate.
She now wants to be a Chartered Accountant. “I will register myself for the IPCC (Integrated Professional Competency Course) by the end of this year.”
Besides the rough and tumble, gymnastics also demands sacrifices, according to Aruna. “No sweets and ice-creams. The sport itself is risky and dangerous when it comes to injuries — you don’t know what can hit you when. An injury puts you out of action for at least six months, dragging your performance right down. To regain rhythm, you will need another six to seven months of rigorous training,” she explains.
However, the recent World Cup was smooth. “It was the first competition where I was without any pressure and confident of winning a medal. I usually share my targets at competitions with my sister but this time around I kept it to myself. With my movements clear at the qualifying stage, I knew I was getting there. In the final, the flow just continued,” she beams.
Aruna is now setting her sights on the Commonwealth and the Asian Games. After her medal at Melbourne, there’s a lot of money pouring in for the achiever, from the State government and other organisations that are falling over each other to felicitate her as she returns to Hyderabad on Friday. What would she want to do with the windfall? In tune with her endeavour in the apparatus routine, the strong young woman softly says, “improve the difficulty part.”...