Downtown

The ringside view

Nandini, Jayapradha and Preethi Photo: Jennifer Sharmila.   | Photo Credit: Jennifer_Sharmila

Six young girls sway back and forth in unison, punching their fists into the air at the Corporation playground in Mettupalayam. Orchestrating their moves are two coaches, D. Preeti and B. Nandini.

Except for the young boxers, the playground wears a deserted look.

“The ground is theirs from 4 to 6 p.m. as students regularly practise here. I wish such an environment is available in other parks and grounds too,” says G. Jayapradha, a former national level boxing champion , who offers free coaching to students from Chennai Schools in various neighbourhoods.

A knee injury during a tournament dashed Jayapradha’s dreams of making it big in boxing. She decided to make others reach for the heights that have eluded her. “I was dejected when the doctors said I should stop boxing. My coach A. K. Karunakaran motivated me to coach youngsters. And this is how Penguin Boxing Academy was started in 2005,” says Jayapradha.

Over 1,000 students from 26 schools in Chennai, Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram are enrolled in the Academy which conducts classes after school hour in parks and playgrounds.

She is helped by 10 other boxers. The majority of them are her students.

Penguin Boxing Academy’s most captivating success story comes from Chennai Girls Higher Secondary School, Rotler Street.

“Nearly 175 state medals and 35 national medals were bagged by the students of the school,” she says, giving the example of Preethi, an alumnus of the school, who is now a coach. “She won her first medal at the national level just one and a half months after she got into training,” she says. Preethi, a gold medal winner in the sub-junior category, today oversees the training at the Mettupalayam ground.

Similarly, she has assigned coaches to other places, which include My Lady’s Park and Corporation Park at Pattalam. Jayapradha has a long way but the journey hasn’t been easy. Convincing schools and parents was a challenge. “Many hesitated to send girls as it is a tough sport,” she says. But once her students started winning awards, things began to get smoother. Without encouragement from PET teachers, she says, it would have been difficult.

Not all students who display an initial enthusiasm stick to the sport. “At least 40 per cent of students drop out in a year unable to meet the demands of the sport. But the ones that stay the course make it big in the sport,” says Jayapradha, a resident of Sowcarpet.

Penguin Boxing Academy aims to have at least one student entering the Olympics. “For that, they need greater encouragement, sponsors and support,” she says.

R. Gunasekaran is an one patron supporting the students financially. Some of them find it difficult to buy a good pair of shoes. “Apart from bringing laurels to the country, my aim is to make these girls financially independent by securing them a job,” she says, introducing Susmitha, an orphan with two younger siblings to take care of.

“She is one of our promising boxers.”

Jayapradha can be reached at 76671 24838.

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Printable version | May 4, 2021 7:44:27 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/downtown/the-ringside-view/article7188170.ece

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