It’s never too late to reignite your love for your passion. And Kerala’s GM Antony has proved this by winning gold in the 50-plus age group (105 kg category) in the National Masters Games held at Chandigarh in April. “It was achieved with the help of the guidance of M Raveendranathan, a former Sports Authority of India coach,” says the 54-year-old.
But the road to participation was paved with jagged stones. Since he earns a living by running a tea shop, at Kochi, the father-of-two did not have enough money. “I got a contribution of `2,000 from the gym,” he says. “Friends also contributed. One friend said, ‘Antony, this is for your one-day’s food bill,’ and gave me `300.”
This was Antony’s first visit to North India and his lack of experience became evident at the event as he wore a shirt and lungi. A Punjabi weightlifter asked sarcastically, “Are you a weightlifter?”
Antony became upset. “I knew he was being sarcastic,” he says.
However, this comment was overheard by members of the Tamil Nadu team. “One of them gave me a track pant,” says Antony. Then Raveendranathan suggested that they should buy a T-shirt. So they bought a green one and had the word ‘Kerala’ printed in white letters across it.
Thanks to this win, he will now participate in the Asian Masters’ championships that will be held in Kuala Lumpur in September. “But the cost will be `60,000. I cannot participate without sponsorship,” says Antony. So far, he has not had any luck. But Antony is not discouraged. Every day he goes to the Ernakulum gym at 4 pm and trains for two hours. After changing into his gear: a T-shirt and shorts, Antony stretches his arms and legs. And lying on a bench, he finally lifts a weight of 120 kg.
His resilience comes from having led a hard life. “When I
was six years old, I got the shock of my life when my father abandoned our family and got married to another woman,” he says. “Because there was no money in the house, I started working as a helper at a hotel in Kochi.”
One day, while walking past the Ernakulam gym, the 15-year-old Antony got fascinated by the weightlifters. With the help of a senior waiter, Ayyappan, he got a membership of the gym. “Coach Ramanathan at the gym gave me the training,” he says.
Soon, Antony began to win district and state awards. Life went on until he got married on September 10, 1995. “To make ends meet, I opened a roadside tea shop, and discovered that I had no time to go to the gym. I worked from 6 am till 8 pm. So I stopped weightlifting.” But after a few years, he developed a paunch and began to suffer from varicose veins. And when the doctor told Antony that he could get better if he started exercising, he began weightlifting again.
Even though weightlifter GM Antony could not have an education, he has ensured that his children have all the opportunities. Son Ebin is in Class 11, while daughter Ann Mary has just passed Class 12 exams. Wife Mallika is a home-maker.
And now that he has got the love of his life, he wants to make the most of it. Though the future does not look financially rosy, in terms of his sports career, Antony does not mind. “I have realised that I am the happiest when I am in the gym,” he says.
His tea Shop
Front portion of his tea shop, which also sells coffee, banana, samosa, bun, omelette and idli, can be seen lined with several English and Malayalam magazines. And his customers include staff from the nearby Kerala High Court, policemen, office-goers and auto drivers.
Antony is now prepping up for the Asian Masters’ Championship that will be held in Kuala Lumpur in September. The cost of participation will be J60,000 and he can’t bear this expense without a sponsorship.
He fell in love with weightlifting when he was 15
2 hrs He devotes to practice at Ernakulum gym daily
Won gold in a national event in age category of 50+