Bowling them over!

Determination and hard work pay off for Prathima Hegde

Triumphant Prathima Hegde finally made herbreakthrough at the National bowling championship, winning the title at Gurgaon last week. DH photo / S K Dinesh

The Karnataka bowler ended her seven-year title drought and also broke the runner-up jinx to grab her maiden National crown of her career. “It was an extremely pleasing experience. Such was the relief that I screamed after winning the title. Spectators looked at me in surprise when I showed such wild celebrations. I was waiting so long for this to happen and when it happened I couldn’t control my emotions,” said Prathima, sporting a big grin.

The 38-year-old had twice previously faltered at the final hurdle — to Sabeena Saleem of Tamil Nadu in 2007 and Sumati N of Andhra Pradesh last year, both times in Bangalore. “It doesn’t feel good when you lose in front of your home crowd. On both occasions, I was leading till the last day but only by a narrow margin of 15-20 pinfalls. I think the pressure of playing in front of the home fans has been the reason for my defeats.”
Elaborating on the strategy she adopted in Gurgaon, Prathima went on: “This time I was determined to take home the title. I made sure that I would score a healthy lead before the last round of matches. The plan worked and I always maintained a fair lead. After the penultimate game (29th) I had 300 pinfalls lead that virtually assured me of the title. The most important thing is, I have been improving in all aspects of my game this year.”

Prathima tallied 5735 pinfalls to beat Sabeena by 319 pinfalls. She averaged 191.167 in 30 games which enabled her to pocket the special award for maximum number of scores above 200 in the week-long meet.

Malaysian stint
Prathima says the month-long stint she had in Malaysia early this year gave her the mental strength to cope with pressure situations. “On the final day in Gurgaon I went down in the first game to Maharashtra’s Jharna Badlani. I bounced back with a series of 200s which helped me to turn the things in my favour. The key factor was that I kept improving and mentally I was strong this time after the training I got in Malaysia at the start of the year. The training was basically to fine-tune my technique. It also gave stress on how to attain physical and mental strength,” said Prathima.
Fitness plays a major role as a bowler needs strong wrist and powerful knees. “You put a lot of pressure on your wrist and knees while bowling. I have a physical trainer and I do a lot of work to strengthen muscles in my arms and legs.”

The Mangalore-born Prathima, who has represented the country at the Doha Asian Games in 2006, Commonwealth championship at Belfast in 2008 and the Asian championship in 2007, took up bowling ten years back. “I took up bowling as a leisure time activity during 1999. I used to go every day to the Megabowl at HAL (which is closed now). Four years later, my husband Kannan Ramachandran (now the general secretary of the State Tenpin Bowling Association and secretary general of the Tenpin Bowling Federation of India) took me to a coaching camp conducted by Malaysian coaches. They were impressed with my talent and asked me to take the sport seriously. That’s how it all started. I am thankful to my husband and my parents for their support. The State and National associations have played a major role in moulding me into a good player.”
Prathima has now set her sights on winning a medal at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou (China). “Any medal at the Asian Games should be a big prize.” But Prathima, the ‘bowling mom’ – she has an eight-year-old daughter Annika — vows to stay in the sport for at least a couple more years. “In November the World Cup is coming up in Melaka (Malaysia). Then there will be the Commonwealth championship and the Asian meet. But my priority is the Asiad. After that everything will depend upon my fitness and performance.”

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