After becoming the first ever Indian to complete the arduous Ultraman Canada race, arguably the toughest triathlon competition in the world, Anuradha Vaidyanathan believes that ‘impossible is nothing’.
The 29-year-old, the youngest athlete to finish the race this year, was 18th among the 19 who could complete the gruelling three-day competition — consisting of 10 km of swimming and 144.8 km of biking (day one), 273.5 km of biking (day two) and 84.3 km of running (day three) — held in Pentincton (Canada) from August 1 to 3. Her timings in the race were: 4:22:51 (10 km swimming), 7:21:08 (144.8 km biking), 11:42:37 (273.5 km biking), 11:47:22 (84.3 km running).
Triathlon tests one’s endurance level. Of course, the distances vary for different events. For example, in the Olympics it is 1.5km of swimming, 40km of biking and 10km of running while in the Ironman race, held in different cities around the world, it is 3.2km, 180km and 42.2km respectively.
Anuradha, popularly known in the triathlon circles as Anu, specialises in half-Ironman and Ironman events and her best performances have been qualifying for the half-Ironman World Championships in February last year and finishing fourth in the Ironman China race in April, 2008.
However, she could not compete in the World Championships in Florida last November. “I had work commitments and no sponsors last year, so I could not go. (Besides) the federation does not extend support to athletes,” Anuradha told The Hindu through an e-mail interview from Canada, where she is training for the Subaru Ironman race starting in a week’s time.
Still, she hopes to fulfil her dream of winning a major international title though she knows the task at hand would not be easy as it would require a lot of hard work and a huge amount of money. She is ready to bend her back, but badly needs a sponsor to back her for a few years.
“It will take 5-6 years, I would be lying if I promised the sky on a plate to anyone, specially potential sponsors, but I throw the challenge right back at corporate houses and individual patrons of the sport to put their money where their mouth is and see how far we can go. (But) after Ultraman Canada, I believe nothing is impossible,” said Anuradha.
Not as lucrative
Being one of the 450 athletes to have finished the Ultraman race so far, Anuradha knows that the sport involving several daunting tasks is not as lucrative as many other sports, especially cricket and tennis. But she does it for the sake of passion and does not regret being a triathlete.
“It took three years to get a sponsor, but this might turn around. I am optimistic that if I keep working hard and take the ups and downs well, there will be a day when I can be a true professional athlete.
“This sport is hard to sell because it is a non-television sport with low-prize money...but the road is long and the sport is expensive, so (I feel) slow and steady wins the race,” said Anuradha, a trained computer engineer who runs a company named ‘Pat N Marks’ — a Bangalore-based firm that offers patenting solutions and intellectual property management services.
Does she nurture any ambition of taking part in the Olympics? “There is a qualification system for the Olympics. It will take three years of consistent participation. However, given the federation’s attitude when I qualified for the World Championships, I have decided to establish myself as a long-course athlete. It’s more fun for me,” she says.
In this long and lonely journey, Anuradha’s greatest support have been her parents. And that fuel keeps her training hard and competing 15 weeks a year around the world despite being without a coach!