She continues to be the only Indian woman to win an Olympic medal

She was the first Indian woman athlete to win an Olympic medal in the 2000 Sydney Games. But the 37-year-old Karnam Malleswari, weightlifter from Andhra Pradesh, says she has mixed feelings when she looks back about the achievement now. “I am happy that I continue to be the only Indian woman to do so, but I am also disappointed that no one else could win after me,” she says in an exclusive chat with The Hindu.

“Obviously, it was the ultimate experience to win a medal. I was indeed disappointed with the bronze for I was actually targeting the gold. I must say that miscalculation on part of my coaches proved very costly. Eventually, only about two kg separated me from the gold medallist,” recalls the FCI general manager.

“Yes, I have been a World champion too earlier. But by all means, Olympic medal was the greatest moment. Even now everything is still so fresh in my memory,” says Malleswari, who learnt the basics in the sport in the remote Amudalavalasa of Srikakulam district under SAAP coach Nelamshetty Appanna.

“Before the Sydney Games competition, I met my all-time favourite Naim Suleymanoglu (the ‘Pocket Hercules’ who won three consecutive Olympic gold medals in weightlifting). I picked up quite a few things watching him in training,” points out the champion of yesteryears.

“As I won that medal four years after my marriage, I definitely owe it to my husband (Rajeshwar Tyagi who was himself a weightlifter) for all the support and of course to my parents,” says the Andhra star now happily married and blessed with two children (Sharath Chandra and Angath Tyagi).

“I am optimistic about a medal-winning performance by K. Ravi Kumar and Soniya Chanu,” she said. “Honestly, I would love to see another weightlifter win an Olympic medal. Well, if Indians don’t do well in my sport, who will remember Karnam Malleswari?” she laughs.

“I still remember vividly all the civic receptions, especially in my home State given by the then Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, on coming back home from Sydney,” says the great champion.