Anup Kumar Yama, the 6th best skater in the world tells that skating has been the only constant in his life
If you ever meet Anup Kumar Yama, you’ll find yourself smiling more often. All of 28, Anup is as humble and knows how to work his facial muscles into an infectious smile that never seems to leave his countenance. Log on to Youtube and watch him glide his way across wooden and ice-rinks with panache, there are falls – many of them but he goes about his routine with that smile. “Every time we practice, we fall at least ten times,” smiles Anup. If you’re still guessing, Anup is the only skater in India to participate in ten World Championships; he is ranked number 1 in India and 3 in Asia and 6 in the world!
For 24 years, Anup has had one constant in his life – skating. He was introduced to the sport as a four-year-old by his father Veeresh Yama at the exhibition grounds in Nampally, “I saw people skating there and I thought it was very ‘cool’,” he laughs. Anup’s father realised that he had a natural flair for the sport and encouraged him at every step. Anup’s older brother is a skater too but he never took it up professionally and concentrated on coaching Anup instead. “My father was a recreational skater, he used to do a little bit of artistic skating and I used to be in awe of him. I have vague memories of him skating backwards and it always used to puzzle me,” he recalls. Like all good Indian boys Anup too has an academic qualification: a master’s degree in business management from Maharishi Institute in the city. “I had a tough time managing both,” he smirks. But in cupboards full of medals, the degree gathers dust and matters the least. Anup never had the usual troubles of convincing his parents of the importance of his sport but that did not make his training any easier. “For both, my brother and me, skating was given top priority. We used to miss out on classes; that meant going to tuitions,” he says. Skating championships ate away a chunk of Anup’s school life; that meant negotiating with teachers; add to all this a practice routine that started at 3.30 a.m.
Anup took to skating at a time when the sport, especially artistic skating, wasn’t popular. Even now the sport has a ‘punkish’ appeal; “People used to think that you just have to skate to music, no one knew of the techniques as such,” says Anup. Initially, Anup’s techniques were raw primarily because of lack of any awareness about the sport, but soon enough through networking, Anup’s coach got hold of books from the USA. “It is unfortunate but the situation across India is the same. “My seniors also didn’t know how to jump up in the air with grace and land with élan, we knew how to but the technique was lacking,” he says. People were kind enough to respond and helped Anup out with books periodically. “In fact they were surprised to find out that skating existed as a sport in a country like India,” he says. In a sport that demands a gold standard in fitness and flexibility, Anup stands out in introducing the world of skating to India with his kicks, spins, jumps and graceful landings.
Anup competed for the first time as a 14-year-old, in 1999 at the Asian and World Championship in China and Australia respectively. This is where he first experienced the international arena of skating. He realised that he was grossly under-prepared and didn’t have access to half the infrastructure that the other skaters had. “I felt miserable. Kids younger than me were doing so well. It shook me,” Determined to make a mark, Anup met and networked with many coaches abroad. A coach from France was the first of many who ended up coming to India to coach him for a while. Anup mobilised skaters from across India who were serious about the sport and formed a small group who would join the skating camp every year for 15 days and learn under the best. “Each one of the coaches I worked under had something new to share. They taught us a lot about skating the categories like roller blades, inline skating and quad-skates. Anup recalls having to struggle a lot, “At 14, when I thought I was good, I wasn’t and I had to unlearn and relearn,” he shrugs. But Anup’s struggle has paved a much smoother path for future skaters by taking the sport to the nationals and winning an array of medals. “Now, the kids can expect to be at a world-class level in ten years, it took us double that time,” he says. Anup currently has about 40 students under his wing and he realises that teaching helps him keep his fundamentals in life.
Anup used to feel special when he’d put on the skates, something he was good at. “I had a fascination for the sport and that is why I have been successful because that fascination became passion,” he says. With years of training, streaks of winning and losing, he has finally put himself on the world map. Winning apart, in 2010 Anup established the Yama School of Skating through which he has trained many enthusiastic skaters who have gone on to win national medals. “I have always wanted to give back something to the sport. The real success is when you leave a legacy of winners,” he says. If there is such a thing that bothers Anup, is the scant recognition the game gets in India considering that it is a popular sport in Europe. “I am well-recognised in Europe, but in Hyderabad people still do double take at the mention of skating. Things are however changing for the better,” he feels.
Anup has over 78 gold medals at the national level; eight gold, five silver and nine bronze at the Asian level and one bronze at the world championship.
He won two bronze medals at the 2010 Asian Games in pairs and men’s singles free skating. He won a bronze medal in 2012 for Inline Artistic Roller Skating World Championship at New Zealand.
If all goes well, Anup hopes to participate in the forthcoming Olympics. The Government of Andhra Pradesh has recommended Anup for the Arjuna Award.