Age no bar for these inspiring senior Indian women athletes

Meet three women who are excelling at powerlifting and athletics and have won an impressive collection of medals

November 29, 2023 04:10 pm | Updated December 21, 2023 01:32 pm IST

Veteran Athlete Rukmani Devi.

Veteran Athlete Rukmani Devi. | Photo Credit: RAGU R

They may be called India’s late bloomers in the world of sports. It makes them more inspiring.

These confident women have displayed skill, grit and determination, practising all year round to win District, State and National-level sporting competitions. All to enter the international area and bring home the gold. Their statement is loud and clear : age is just a number.

Reeni Tharakan, 63 years old

’Powerlifting means heavy muscle, and you’ll end up looking like male bodybuilders’ is the biggest misconception women have with regard to powerlifting. This is not true. Women do not have the same kind of hormones as men to build that kind of muscle. Under the tutelage of an experienced trainer, you can be guided to excel without hurting yourself.

It has been 10 years since I started weight training. I travel to Kochi from Thycattuserry village in Alappuzha district on the train three times a week to work with my coach. I went professional in 2019 and entered my first competition at the district level.

Reeni Tharakan

Reeni Tharakan | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

I come from a conservative family, and even the costume I wore at the competition was frowned upon by some family members. But, my husband and daughters are very supportive and encouraged me to continue doing what I enjoy the most. 

Sometimes you have to break that barrier, and not get pulled into it. I see each competition as an opportunity to better myself and study techniques followed by others. I’m gearing up for my next competition in Bangalore this month. 

Reeni Tharakan recently won All Squat (Gold), All Bench Press (Gold), All Deadlift (Gold) and Overall in Category (Gold) at the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) World Classic and Equipped Masters Powerlifting Championships at Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia 2023.

Rukmini Devi Talluri, 68 years old

You will find me at the Nehru stadium, YMCA or other fitness centres in Chennai at sunrise every single day. I diligently train for over two hours under the supervision of my coaches Narayanaswamy (discus and javlin), Rajeswari Johnson (pole vault), Vasanth (athletic fitness and 100 mt run, John Stalin (hammer throw) and Riaz (high jump).

I have played and captained basketball and handball for Andhra Pradesh for four national tournaments, and later went onto play basketball for the Indian Railways. When I joined the bank, I played throwball and tennikoit. Once I got married, and had children, I decided to take a break.

Senior athlete Rukmani Devi.

Senior athlete Rukmani Devi. | Photo Credit: RAGU R

At the age of 50, I was encouraged by my coach Rajeswari to play a sport. Fitness is a mental relaxation for seniors. The number of women in powerlifting and other sports is still low, but slowly rising.

At the World Masters Association, we had nearly 200 participants when I became a member. Now, we have over 1,000 participants, men and women, between the age group of 35 years and 85 years. The next championship is scheduled for August 2024 in Sweden, and I’ll probably focus on just two competitions: pole vault and hammer throw.

Family makes a huge difference, and I owe my success to my husband, in-laws and my children, for they have been encouraging me to keep pursuing my interests.

Rukmini Devi Talluri recently returned from the 22nd Asia Masters Athletics Championships in Tarlac, Philippines 2023. She won Pole Vault (Silver), Hammer Throw (Bronze) 100meters (6th Place).

Amudha Suganthi Babu, 41 years old

After my first medal in 2015, my family was enthused. Today, they send me off with prayers and blessings for each tournament. They ask me to come back with the gold.

The coach in my gym introduced me to the world of iron games, like strength lifting and powerlifting. In 2015, I entered competitions, at the age of 35. I was your typical homemaker, with a husband, daughter, busy home and lots of pets in the house to take care of.

I enjoy power lifting so much so that I often forget my age. A lot of women I know find excuses to pursue any kind of fitness challenge. All that I say to them is that there will always be work at home and outside it. Despite this, you need to allot time and be focused on your goal.

Amudha Suganthi Babu

Amudha Suganthi Babu | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

My husband, a silambam master, is my coach. I’ve bought equipment and workout of my home, six days a week, three hours each day. In each of these competitions, I’ve seen women almost 80 years old participate, and it’s really inspiring.

Amudha Suganthi Babu is 41 years. All Squat (Silver), All Bench Press (Silver), All Deadlift (Silver) and Overall in Category (Silver) at The International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) 2023 World Masters Powerlifting Championships will be held in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

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