With India tuning in to watch Team India get creamed in the ongoing tour of New Zealand, few have noticed that a young teen from the city scored a gold in the under-17 National Rhythmic Gymnastics that concluded at Agra on February 2.
The first ever athlete from Andhra Pradesh to win the medal, city-based Meghana Reddy Gundlapally is an emerging gymnast with all the makings of a champ.
With rhythmic gymnastic still a largely undiscovered sport in India, we wonder how Meghana got into it.
“I have been learning gymnastics for the last four and a half years. My mom had enrolled me in a gymnastics class to help build my stamina. I was also trained in classical dance (Kuchipudi), because of which the instructor had recommended that I take up rhythmic gymnastics,” shares the teen who just turned 15. An Olympic discipline, rhythmic gymnastics is performed mostly by women, combining grace and co-ordination. It is performed to music with the gymnast using hand apparatuses like a ball, hoop, clubs or ribbon. Meghana had performed her routine using a ball, hoop and ribbon, combining technique and overall body control with distinction, earning her the top spot.
For the class 10 student of Stanley Girls High School in Abids, what started out as a regular hobby soon transformed into a profession. Seeking training from quite a few former champs, Meghana also began to take part in various competitions in the UK, even scoring a bronze medal at their prestigious Bath Cup.
Explaining the inspiration behind taking up the sport professionally, Meghana says, “Initially, I enrolled in gymnastics just for fun. In 2010, I went to watch the Commonwealth Games in Delhi along with my family.
There, the only sport we got tickets to was Rhythmic Gymnastics and it was the first time an Indian team was taking part in the sport at a global level. Watching them play, I was completely inspired and decided that I wanted to represent my country in front of an audience as well.”
Having emerged as the gold medalist at the national level, Meghana is a happy lass but attributes a her success towards the training she received in the US and UK. “I had two long spells of training in the US and UK which helped me a lot. In 2011, I went to California with my mother and trained under a world champion from Bulgaria. In 2012, I received training in the UK from a 1996 Olympian from Russia. It was a tremendous learning experience for me,” explains the 15-year-old.
But despite the more serious side of the sport, what Meghana likes about being a rhythmic gymnast is the fun she has. “I really enjoy myself while playing. It helps me stay focused and improves my concentration. Also, it’s a lot of fun to play with some of the other children.”
Incidentally, this was Meghana’s first competition in India though she’s taken part in contests in the UK before. As special as the experience has been, she can’t help but notice a stark difference in the way games are held in the country.
“This was my first tournament in India and it was special to me because I was representing Andhra Pradesh for the first time. However, when I was in London, everything was much more organised. They used to allot a specific time and it never used to exceed that time. I never played a single game after 6 pm. In India, it was not so organised and a lot of times, the games would get delayed. Also, the competition I faced in London was extremely fierce; I did not find it so competitive here,” she shares.
Andhra Pradesh finished third in the overall medals tally with Meghana claiming the highest points. She won two gold medals in Hoop and Clubs and a silver medal in Ribbon.
With her sights on the firmly set on the Commonwealth Games set to take place in Glasgow this year, she knows she still has a long way to go.
“Right now I’m completely focused and looking forward to taking part in the Commonwealth Games in July. I will also be taking part in a national tournament in April but the dates and venue is yet to be finalised,” she shares on a parting note.