Karnam Malleswari made history at the 2000 Sydney Olympics by becoming the first Indian woman to win an Olympic medal. To get there however, she had the challenge of dealing with societal taboos that come with being a woman in a sport like weightlifting apart from maneuvering the challenges that came in her sport itself.
“For a woman in a sport like weightlifting, I would always get a backlash from my relatives,” said Malleswari on Sony Ten’s ‘The Medal of Glory’ which airs on the network’s Facebook page on Monday.
“Even today weightlifting is seen by some as a man’s sport. People would say that I will have health problems in the future that I won’t be able to bear children. But my mother never paid heed to anyone and let us pursue our dreams. She was the biggest pillar of strength in my journey.”
Malleswari said that she had got into weightlifting because her sister was a lifter herself.
“There was a gym close to the school that we used to go to and our district Srikakulam was already very famous for weightlifting. My elder sister was into athletics and the weightlifting coach there told her that her physique is good for the sport,” she said.
“So she started weightlifting and I used to go there with her. I also became interested in the sport and told my coach that I would like to take up the sport. But he told me that I was not fit for weightlifting, that I was too thin and I should just help my mother in her household chores.
“From my childhood I have had a lot of self-confidence so I felt pretty insulted when he said that. I felt how can anybody decide what I can or cannot do. So I decided now I have to excel in this sport and show him.”
The 44-year-old retired after the 2004 Athens Olympics and has since opened up her own academy. She says that her dream is to see one of her trainees go and win an Olympic gold.
“I am already running an academy and I am now making a residential academy that will hopefully be of international standard that can house upto 300 students. My only dream is that my girls go and win 10 Olympic golds for the one that I missed in Sydney,” she said.