It's just all in the game

IS MARRIAGE A HURDLE? Many sportswomen prefer to choose partners from the sports fraternity itself.

IS MARRIAGE A HURDLE? Many sportswomen prefer to choose partners from the sports fraternity itself.   | Photo Credit: PHOTO: SAMPATH KUMAR G.P.

How successful is the transition from Miss to Mrs in the field of sports? Some women take a break from the circuit and return as coaches so that they can put their experience to good use

When Rekha, an athlete, married a fellow sportsman, she never thought life would take such a U- turn. The national-level javelin and discus thrower was looked upon with suspicion whenever she went for outdoor competitions and she could hardly concentrate on athletics. So, she quit sports and lost out on a promising career.Hers is not a rare case. So many female sportspersons have been forced to choose between home and career. The problem is only compounded when the spouse is from a different field or not interested in sports. A reason why many sportspersons tend to choose a life partner in their fraternity.

Global phenomenon

And it is a global phenomenon spanning disciplines, from tennis to table tennis to athletics to chess. So, are these women successfully able to handle marriage and sports? S. Vijayalakshmi, India's first Woman Grand Master who married fellow chess-player and International Master Sriram Jha early last year, says: "The first year after marriage has been great and my best performances took place then. I won an international tournament and finished third in the Paris Open, the first Indian to achieve this distinction. I am lucky to have married someone who takes interest in my game, understands that I need to participate in tournaments and also guides me." Luckily enough, her parents-in-law are supportive of the chess duo and follow their progress. If Vijayalakshmi married a fellow player and made a success of it, athlete Tulasi Yuvarajan did the same despite marrying someone outside the field of sports. The athlete, who works for the Port Trust, says it is vital that the partner be interested in sports. "Then he can encourage and support you. If they are also in the same discipline, it can get quite difficult. Competition and lack of trust play spoilsport."Tulasi, a three-time bronze medallist in the national javelin event, won her last two medals after marriage. "Since my husband had a lot of interest in sports, I was able to continue taking part in the event. He even accompanies me to practice and has always been a great support.''How do these women find time to practise? Vijayalakshmi cooks and Sriram helps her out in other household chores. After office, they sit down for a refreshing session of chess. "It really helps," she says.But Vijayalakshmi is a bit apprehensive about her younger sister and Woman Grand Master S. Meenakshi's future. "If she is going to marry someone outside the chess community, she has to be careful. Her husband should understand and respect her career. That is vital to achieve laurels."Then there are those who voluntarily opt out of sports after marriage. Take Ca. Chamundeswari, three-time Asian Champion in the 44-kg category power lifting. She married a journalist who was very interested in sports. "He was very encouraging and supportive. Still, I didn't want to continue. I am happy playing the role of homemaker."Tulasi feels women must continue sports after marriage and reasons why. "It is easier to engage in physical sports after marriage. The flexibility of the muscles increases after childbirth," she says. Take her example. She won the All India Port Trust gold medal in 1987 and created a still-unbroken record when her daughter Prathiba was three. After a stint in the amateur events, she moved to veteran events, in which she won gold at the Asian Championships in the above-35 years category.Some women take a break from the circuit and return as coaches so that they can put their experience to good use. Like Zamrath Eddy Hermes, former table tennis No.1 in Tamil Nadu. She quit after marriage but returned after childbirth. She wants to give new shape to her passion by coaching youngsters. Chamundeswari is also into coaching and acts as a referee for local tournaments. (Some names have been changed on request.)


Recommended for you