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When a mom turned into powerlifting champ

Though Deepa aims to compete in the world championships in her age category, her primary concern still remains not getting injured and taking care of her kids. Throughout this journey, her husband Ajay Thankachan supported her.
Last Updated : 20 May 2024, 00:18 IST
Last Updated : 20 May 2024, 00:18 IST

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Bengaluru: When 44-year-old Deepa Ajay bagged the gold at the National Women's Powerlifting Championship this April, she obliterated four national records. It was the icing on the cake for a journey triggered by family compulsions.

But powerlifting was the last thing on Deepa's mind a few years ago, when all she wanted was to be physically strong enough to take care of her two sons Aditya (20) and Ashish (12), who are specially-abled..

Deepa was overweight and her challenges included helping them with activities of daily living.

"I realised that as they grow older and heavier, my difficulties would exacerbate as I will also be aging. Thus, physical fitness became a top priority," says Deepa, who is a resident of Bengaluru.

The task ahead was Herculean. Around 2019, she started frequenting the apartment gym for weight loss. While her daily routine began with helping her kids get ready for school, she would workout in the gym in the afternoon.

This opened up another world. 

"I liked my routine and also realised how building muscle can help to improve bone density. I read articles and watched several YouTube videos and got into powerlifting," she says.

Her biggest concern was to escape injury as her kids were dependent on her. As she grew in confidence, Deepa started training under an online coach Vedant Pawnikar.

Weightlifting and powerlifting are easily confused with each other and it's crucial to underscore the differences.

The former is an Olympic sport and consists of two components — 'snatch' and 'clean and jerk' — and a player's cumulative score is counted. In powerlifting, there are three components — Squat (SQ), Bench Press (BP) and Deadlift (DL) — and the cumulative score is considered. Pawnikar underscores that the movements are comparatively simpler in powerlifting, adding that the learning curve is smaller.

Impressed by her prowess in all three components and her indomitable will, Pawnikar persuaded Deepa to contest in the Open category (19+) instead of her age category (40-49) — considered a tad easier — in the National Senior Women's Classic Powerlifting Championship 2024. It was conducted by Powerlifting India (PI) in April.

Despite confronting competitors half her age in a brutally physical sport, Deepa came out on top, clinching the gold in the 69-kg open event and bagging 4 national records in the process, with a cumulative weight lift of 412.5 kg (Sq- 155, BP- 82.5 and DL - 175).

"It's an incredible achievement. Looking at her practice scores, I knew she could win gold. It was just a matter of self-belief and she even outscored her training scores," says an elated Pawnikar. 

Though Deepa aims to compete in the world championships in her age category, her primary concern still remains not getting injured and taking care of her kids. Throughout this journey, her husband Ajay Thankachan supported her.

She hopes her laurels will propel other mothers with differently-abled kids to look beyond their horizons, aim bigger and become a voice for their children through their achievements.

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Published 20 May 2024, 00:18 IST

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