1.Which town from Tamil Nadu do you hail from? When did you move to the US? When and how did you realise that sports is what you want to take up professionally?
I was born and brought up in Chennai, but my parents hail from Kerala. So, I am basically what we call “Malu Madrasi”. I moved to the US last year August 2021. Sports was already a part of my family. My parents were former basketball captains of our country, and I would have grown up watching sports, my mom and dad would take me to basketball tournaments. Ever since childhood, my mom put me into various sports such as tennis, badminton which would have helped grow my passion and love for sports. I took up track and field seriously in high school when I started winning medals for my school, bettered the Tamil Naidu state record in shotput. I got to learn the opportunities and doors that track, and field could open for professionals such as free higher education, high-intensity training, A-class facilities, and most importantly the exposure to compete within one of the best countries known for their track and field performances.

2. How did you get into Shotput and how did your life change after that?
I was selected by my school athletic coach Thirumalai Jothi who I call Jothi miss, she taught me how to hold, throw shot put in grade 5. I was selected for a kiddies meet which took place in Nehru stadium, I started to like shotput, it made me feel stronger, confident. Shot put has always been my first love. The event is such that you need to be aggressive, crazy, and strong for you to leash it far. As the saying goes, “You need to be a little bit crazy to do great things”. I would happily consider myself crazy then if it can make me the best! Honestly, even though my primary event is discus and I am recruited for it, shot put has helped me a lot in terms of technique and mindset. You need to be mentally tough to compete in such cut-throat environments. Life in the United States of America is hectic, something that I never would have imagined, it is fast-paced, we student-athletes are required to be academically balanced, but I have no complaints, I am happy and grateful for this opportunity.

3. What are the hurdles you had to face to reach where you are today?
I have faced several challenges. I have been body shamed. I am not the typical Indian women’s body type; people’s thoughts had always haunted me and disturbed my feelings. There was a point where I started seeking people’s validations. Many do not understand what kind of impact it could have on one’s self-confidence and mental health. But I am happy that I have overcome it and this body has helped me become who I am today. The other challenges that I would have faced like proper facilities, I still remember the days of practicing my throws in the parking lots, mud circles as we throwers were not allowed to throw inside the stadium. I think these were the driving factors that made me push myself and still go ahead. My mom always reminds me to never forget my roots!

4. Please share some of the highpoints of your journey?
Some of my highpoints would be,
To win the silver medal in Women ‘s Shotput with a throw of 15.00mts at the 2022 Conference USA indoor track and field championship, this achievement made the 2nd ever Indian female thrower to break the 15 barrier, also this put me into the UTEP ‘s all-time indoor female shot put thrower’s list placing me No.4

To be ranked no.9 in Junior Asia for Girls U-20 discus throw in 2021 with 48.27mts, this distance also made me no.1 in India for girls u-20 discus throw for the year 2021.

5. Please share some details about yourself as a Shotput star, nation’s icon, a student and a public figure? What are your other passions and hobbies? How do you like to unwind?
I became the first Indian female thrower, the first female athlete from Tamil Nadu, and the second female track and field athlete from India after triple jumper, Lizabeth Karoline to receive a Division I athletic scholarship

Thank you for entitling me to these big titles, I am really taken aback. I have a huge passion for cooking, I wanted to be a chef but unfortunately could no longer pursue it since I took up track and field. But you know you must eat and cook for you to survive. So, I watch different YouTube food channels and try to bring out Gordon Ramsay in me. Honestly, my favorite way of unwinding is to sleep. We student-athletes here in the United States have like a really packed schedule, we do not get a lot of time to recover, as we have practices in and out of classes. So as and when I get time I love to sleep, it is one of my favorite hobbies, I mean who does not love sleep right?

6. What in your view do women have that makes them what they are?
In my view, we women are the pillars of strength, mental toughness, and elegance. We, women, face so much negativity from society, in terms of our looks, appearance, body type, etc. We are naturally trained to overcome obstacles. A great example is Jamaican legend Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce, she is the 3rd fastest woman alive (100metres), she ran her lifetime best after she gave birth to her son, I consider myself to have had words with her and to have witnessed that great race! I sometimes feel that we women are sometimes extremely underestimated because of gender, physical strength, but it is ultimately the women who make a beautiful human being inside of her body and push the same human being out of her which is such a painful process. So, to reiterate, to me women are the pillars of strength, mental toughness, and elegance because we do it style!

7. It’s not easy the way we women juggle around so many things- our work, homes, families, social lives, fitness etc. Some tips on how you balance it all so beautifully?
Yes, it’s not easy the way we women juggle around so many things- our work, homes, families, social lives, fitness, etc. But I seek inspiration. Inspiration lies within our own people. For me, my inspiration is my mother, my sister, my grandmother, etc. I would have grown around such empowered and strong independent women who manage all these juggles so beautifully. My mother is a sportswoman herself; she literally has been through or even worst of what I am going through. She has always taught me to be the best. The way that I balance it, is just to let it flow, do not go hard on yourself for things that are out of your control. You need to really love and be passionate about what you do. Sometimes, when I find too many things to be overwhelming, I just sit back, close my eyes, and breathe. It is all those sacrifices that you make, for me, it would be leaving India, my family and I hope that these sacrifices that I made help me have a good career and life. Love the life you live; live the life you love is my mantra!

8. How often do you shuttle between the US and India?
Since I came to the US last year August, I have not had the opportunity to go back to India, but I hope to go home this summer. I really miss my family and friends. I really wish India was close to the US for me to do monthly visits, but the travel duration and cost are a few factors too.

9. Any advice to budding sports enthusiasts?
My advice to budding sports enthusiasts is do not early specialise in any sports. Explore and play as many sports as you can, I would have played many sports such as tennis, badminton, basketball before landing on track and field. Through that passage, you will be able to find which sport you love and are passionate about. Know that nothing in life comes readily, you need to earn everything. If you work hard and be sincere, I am sure you will succeed.

10. What is in the pipeline in terms of your sport and other work currently?
My goals for this year are to qualify and make it to the NCAA finals, win the C-USA outdoor Championship and qualify for the upcoming Asian Games. My long-term goal is to participate and win a medal for our country in the 2024 Olympics Games. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Uncle Sam Paul and Uncle Ashok Varghese of Hindustan University for being such great well-wishers and for always supporting and having the faith in me!

– By Namita Gupta