Conquering new horizons

Conquering new horizons
While motorsport has been a predominantly male-dominated sport, recent times have seen women coming to the fore and enjoying great success while participating alongside the men.

The likes of Anita Nanjappa and Anita Kholay have broken the stereotype in the sport and enjoyed fabulous success.

When it comes to women bike racers, Alisha Abdullah is a name that stands out and has been part of the racing fraternity for many years now, but there is a new force that has made heads turn this year on the national circuit -- Bengaluru’s very own Aishwarya Pissay.

After a relatively quiet start to her career four years ago, the 22-year-old has come into her own with superb performances, becoming the first woman national champion in racing and rallying, rising to the top of the INRC charts.

It is no mean feat to achieve, considering the financial burden and the fitness requirements -- but for Aishwarya, her gritty nature and support from family makes her ride a tad smoother.

“It hasn’t been an easy ride. Initially, when I started I did put money into it. When it started getting difficult, there were a lot of people asking the question --why me? But trying to get better with each passing day is what helped me get a deal with TVS racing.”

What started out as weekend rides with friends when she was 18, has turned into something she can make an enviable career and apart from breaking stereotypes, Aishwarya has answered her critics after clinching the fourth spot in Group B (upto 250cc) category at the recent Raid de Himalaya.

“It was a weekend thing initially, going on road trips. Then, I did this TV show for MTV where I travelled more than 8000km over 24 days. What actually piqued my interest even more was when we rode from Rann of Kutch to Cherapunji. I did a couple of bum burner and saddle sore rides as well. That is 1600km in 24 hours and 2500km in 36 hours.

“Then a friend suggested that I get into races. That is when I started training for road racing. I had my first event last year and did really badly but started taking it more seriously afterwards,” Aishwarya said about her ‘accidental’ foray into the sport.

Garnering support from counterparts is essential in any sport but when things don’t quite go according to plan, true character is vital for success, especially when one has to deal with adversity. The latter is true in Aishwarya’s case, and the youngster revealed the banter she had to endure during her early days.

“It definitely a male-dominated sport and a woman coming into it and competing, isn’t something people are used to. A lot of people said this isn’t a girl’s thing, why are you doing this or don’t push for anything because you might fall and hurt yourself. Just aim to finish it and not any higher. I just didn’t say anything but my performance started speaking.

“Road racing is expensive, so are rallies. But I managed to get around it. Luckily, my mother is very supportive and keeps pushing me,” she added.
Her feat at the Raid was all the more impressive considering she hadn’t even got past the first day in the 2016 edition. Raid aside, Aishwarya finished third at the Dakshin Dare in the upto 260cc category, while clinching the title in the women’s category.

Bengaluru has been home to many racing stars like C Vijayakumar, CS Santosh and KP Aravind. And for this rising star, while she doesn’t really have an idol, she looks up to a certain few as she pushes herself on the hard road.

“Actually I didn’t have an idol as such. My passion to do it has made me look up to and keenly follow a few individuals. More recently, it has been Santosh, KP, (Abdul Wahid) Tanveer and one of the lady Dakar riders -- Laia Sanz -- that I look up to. So there are a couple of people whom I follow and that’s what motivates me to push myself.”

Displaying immense poise and composure for a girl her age, Aishwarya, who trains at the TVS track in Hosur, has set herself limited targets for the immediate future and believes more in taking it one day at a time.

Competing against the best at the gruelling Dakar Rally maybe the ultimate goal for most in the sport, and it is no different for Aishwarya.

“The Dakar is obviously an ultimate goal but there are a lot of factors that are involved. When the time is right and I’m prepared, I think TVS will support me. I’m realistically looking at five years from now.”

Aishwarya’s next aim is to do well in the final round of the INRC. If she can win the title, it will firmly put her on a pedestal and reaffirm that this is one daredevil that means business, and is here to stay!

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