"I believe going forward, my performance will improve. The training will help me become more disciplined and allow me to focus better. My routines will improve significantly and I'll come back as a better person. Ananya. (Image DC)
Ananya Garikipati created history by becoming the first Indian to win a gold and a silver medal at the Junior Star Rhythmic Gymnastics Championship and Salut Cup at Moscow — the Mecca of gymnastics in 2019. Ever since, her tryst with Gymnastics has been growing. And her splendid performance at the recent University International Sports Festival in Moscow earned her a ‘golden invite’ from Irina Viner, Head Coach and President of the Russian Rhythmic Gymnastics Federation, to train under her.
Irina extended the invitation after seeing a report in a Moscow tabloid that Ananya had expressed interest in training under her.
Ananya and her mom"It’s a dream come true," says an ecstatic Ananya. "It’s an honour to be invited by a legendary coach. Growing up, I always wished to train under her. Her students have won world championships and Olympic medals, so getting a chance to be trained by her is incredible. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," she shares.
At the same time, she acknowledges that the new development has put fresh pressure on her to perform. Interestingly, the 20-year-old has been doing her own fitness training so far.
Normally athletes require a coach’s guidance and strategising during competitions. So when we ask Ananya who helped her during competitions, she replies that it was her mother who guided her all through. "My mother (an ophthalmologist by profession) has put her medical practice on hold to assist me. She has acquired all the skills to help me train in gymnastics," says Ananya. "She knows how much my body needs and can take, so she plans my diet and training sessions. Though it would be nice to have someone to encourage and provide a mental boost, over time I learned to handle it myself."
While admitting that the lack of a permanent coach has impacted her, Ananya says on the flip side, she was able to strike a balance between athletics and academics on her own.
The young athlete was not able to fix a coach in Hyderabad. "I was never bothered by the comments and negativity around me," she says. "I focus on improving game. It’s a contest between my current self and my past self." However, she feels the offer she has got from Irina is a ‘slap in the face’ for her naysayers.
She feels the Russian finesse that she will gain will give her a competitive edge, though she recognises that transitioning from her own flexible system to a rigid training schedule will be challenging. "I believe going forward, my performance will improve. The training will help me become more disciplined and allow me to focus better. My routines will improve significantly; I’ll come back as a better person."
Does she have cold feet before competitions, we ask. Ananya replies that she loves competing, and is never under stress about her performance in the ring. But she admits that there is one thing that stresses her — balancing academics and gymnastics. "My college has been helpful; but I make an effort to attend classes as much as I can. I have a four-day week which gives me three complete days for training."