In focus Gymnastics is the flavour of the season, discovers NEERAJA MURTHY as she attends one of the manysummer camps

Ten-year-old Dhruv walks around in a red Ben10 tee with an air of exuberance. “I love Ben10. I want to be strong and powerful like him so I am learning gymnastics,” he cheers as he leads a group of children for their warm-up session. At the sports complex in Vijayanagar Colony, there is a beehive of activity. On a sweltering afternoon as the mercury rises, we make our way to the second floor of the complex and the cheerfulness spread by the young group is in contrast to the dull walls of the room. Dhruv’s mother Dr. Divya chips in, “As a kid Dhruv loved climbing and would often tumble. We put him in gymnastics as he was flexible but we being Indian parents didn’t take sports very seriously and in between he discontinued. Now, he is back to the class.” As coaches Balraj and Jagadish watch, the boys and girls get ready for their warm-up session. First, they do the slow walk and then walk with their toes. The hall is no park but we get the feeling as the little ones perform a duck walk and follow it up with other exercises. “Gymnastics is the best combination of fun and fitness,” says coach Balraj, who is a cashier at SBH, Anandnagar Colony. He continues, “Children are exposed to different exercises which help in motor ability co-ordination. It builds their power, speed and flexibility and the posture becomes graceful. The brain becomes active and the bones, strong,” he reels out the benefits of the sport and asks us, “Do I look like a 54-year-old?” With summer camps being organised at different places in the city, gymnastics has become one of the flavours of the season. Balraj attributes it to the sport being taught at different schools.

At Gandhi Gyan Mandir in Koti, coach Subbarayudu is in the midst of action. He calls gymnastics the ‘mother game.’ “Gymnastics is the foundation for all sports. One has to start with gymnastics before deciding on the sporting career. Depending on the motor ability test, endurance and speed and the child’s body type, we recommend the sport which suits them. We had recommended Sania Mirza to take up tennis when she was in IV std in NASR,” he says. With Andhra Pradesh bringing in laurels at the national games, gymnastic coach Ravinder feels gymnastics is scaling ahead. “Gymnastics is a time-taking process and needs youngsters to be focussed and competitive. We coach youngsters who are serious about it and discourage those who want to just learn it as a hobby,” he says. Manikanta, an intermediate first year student has been training for the past year and wants to take part in competitions. He rubs magnesium carbonate light on his palms and jumps on the iron bar, twists and turns, does a forward circle and back up rise. “One needs to challenge to succeed,” he beams. Balraj informs us of the competitions for certificate courses to be held during the May third week. “Gymnastics looks risky, but once you get a hold of it, the sport’s benefits are many. You will know it only when you experience it,” he says. So, if you have not yet zeroed in on what to do in the free time this summer, how about gymnastics!