Three-time world carrom champion Ilavazhagi believes that practice is the key to outperforming your rival. She runs a campaign on Milaap to raise funds for her fledgling carrom academy that seeks to promote rural talent.
CHENNAI: Life as we know it is a battle. Sometimes we will have an army by our side but sometimes family will be the only cavalry that shows up at the time of need. Three-time world carrom board champion Ilavazhagi opens up to CE about her triumphs and the journey towards her dream that had its share of struggles and obstacles.
“My father’s encouragement and support got me into the game. He had wanted to pursue this game as a kid, but due to financial constraints he could not follow his heart. He became an auto driver to support his family,” she recalls.
When Ilavazhagi took to carrom, her father supported her wholeheartedly. “Even if we did not have the means to afford food sometimes, he would take me to my practices and matches without fail. We could not afford a board at the time, so I would go to the Arumugam board room to practice every day at 4 am,” she shares.
After becoming a professional carrom player, Ilavazhagi made sure her sisters get what she was not able to — education. Both her siblings are now graduates from reputed universities. Ilavazhagi’s first coach was her father Irudayaraj and then went on to be trained under B Bangarababu and then by P Anandan. “Now I train with my husband Shaktivel, who is also a national level carrom champion. Now, I train for at least three hours a day. I train solo for at least an hour since it enhances my ability to assess myself. I train singles with my husband everyday,” she grins.
Ilavazhagi suggests that the only way to do better than your competitor is by practising more than them. “Doing better in every little detail comes from working very hard on every single aspect. Any person can do better at anything by giving it all they have. Dedication and hard work is the key,” she adds, and remembers her toughest game with another Indian in 2005-06 in Maldives. “The match went on for seven straight hours. The opponent was P Nirmala from Tamil Nadu. It was the most intense and toughest game I have ever played but it was a great experience. I am glad I succeeded that hurdle to go on and win the championship.”
Ilavazhagi has travelled extensively as a part of her carrom campaigns. She has travelled all across India to places including Mumbai, Deli, Kolkata, Assam, Siliguri, Bangalore, UP, MP, Orissa, AP for matches. She has also played matches in Malaysia,Maldives, Sri Lanka, France and USA. She has won three world cups for India and when she succeeded in France, she was offered French citizenship and a hefty monthly salary which she declined gracefully.
The reason behind this is quite inspiring. “I have suffered a lot while pursuing my dream and I know the struggle more than anyone else. I don’t want people like me to go through the same struggle. I could have had a better life there but I am an Indian and I want to make more champions here for our country,” says Ilvazhagi.
She has started an academy to promote carrom talents from rural pockets and for the same, she has to go through many objections. “With that, and financial constraints, my academy has suffered a lot. Now, I have totally put my faith on the people of my city and country. I have been playing for them all my life. I am running a fundraiser on Milaap for this reason, and am looking up to the people of my city to help me make this a reality. I will definitely help train and produce more players,” she says.
Ilavazhagi believes that there is no such thing as a winning strategy. “Every strategy is win-worthy if we use it wisely. Having said that, you can always know when your opponent is scared. When they are scared, they will be vulnerable and we can use it as our advantage,” she grins.
Ilavazhagi holds 260 medals, out of which 106 are gold, 17 are silver & 12 are bronze medals won in national competitions. She has won 111 gold, 9 and 5 bronze medals in international tournaments.
● She has participated in four world championships.
● First championship was in Delhi, where she won both singles and doubles.
● Second in France in 2008 in which she managed to secure the first place in singles and the runner-up in doubles.
● The next was the 2010 championship in the US where she secured the first place in singles and doubles.