In Conversation with Manasi

  1. When and why did you start pursuing athletics? 

I started playing athletics when I was just six years old. My events are 100m and 200m. Honestly, I had no complete plan in my mind back then. I just loved playing and athletics being the base for every sport, since it involves every aspect of fitness, my parents and I decided to choose it. Later on, even if I didn’t like the sport, I could shift to something else, and adapting to that sport won’t be a problem. So this was the basic idea behind joining athletics at Deccan gymkhana. Frankly, I didn’t realize when I started loving the sport so much. I started playing district and state-level matches back in 2nd standard and won gold and bronze, respectively. After that, I couldn’t stop myself from running. 

  1. In your opinion, what are the primary qualities you need to be a good athlete?

Okay, so, in my opinion, being passionate about your sport is the very first quality that any athlete should have. Precisely because if you have real passion, then you put your entire heart and soul into it—heart and soul in every practice. Second, determination. The “I will” approach instead of the “I can” approach. Thirdly, never losing focus and working hard towards your goals. Lastly and probably the most important is patience. I think all of these qualities should be there in an athlete. 

  1. What things did you have to work on when you started? How did you overcome them?

Since childhood, I was a very short-tempered girl; I would lose my calm on small things, and at times that affected my focus on the game. So my mom had a major role in keeping me calm and helping me improve my concentration. She always gave me the example of MS Dhoni, my greatest idol, and used to tell me how he never loses his temper and that I should be exactly like him. You should entirely focus on the match and self-improvement and ignore the rest of the things. Whenever there was any situation where I could get angry, I remembered him. This strategy worked wonderfully for me, and I was able to overcome this problem. 

  1. What was the biggest challenge you faced while competing?

According to me, the biggest challenge was the weather conditions. Our competitive season starts in June and lasts up to February, and there are almost 9-10 major tournaments. The district-level matches used to be in Pune, but the district and nationals were outside Maharashtra. We are used to practicing in our native cities, and we’re extremely familiar with the weather. But since the Nationals were in places like Kozhikode, Ajmer, Ranchi, there were extreme temperatures. The finals were generally in the afternoons, and I clearly remember that the temperature in Kozhikode was 40 degrees at that time, and it was terrible. Likewise, in Ajmer, I had my finals at 7 in the morning, and the temperature was around 35 degrees. In Ranchi, the final was around 4 pm, and the temperature was also about 14-15 degrees celsius. I literally had to start my warm-up 2 hours before the match. Such drastic conditions heavily affect your performance, and since my sport is all about seconds, to be precise, milliseconds, it matters a lot. But the key to adapting to these conditions is not to think about it too much; that is basically to psych yourself up. Trust me; this helps you a lot, you don’t lose your confidence.

  1. Is developing an interest in the sport essential to getting better at it?
Sakal Newspaper, 2nd July 2014

Absolutely! It is of utmost necessity to love your sport and be dedicated to it to improve. If you aren’t interested in your sport and just keep practicing it monotonously, it’s just not going to work. You will keep practicing just for the sake of it, and in my opinion, it’s not a good sign. If you’re genuinely interested in your sport, then you will strive hard and put your all into it, improve your flaws and do anything and everything it takes to become the best. So I think that pure dedication, pure interest, and pure passion are very, very necessary. 

  1.  Who influenced your relationship with sports the greatest?

The first people who come to my mind are my coach and my parents. They have the most significant role to play in strengthening my relationship with sports. Their never-ending support and encouragement have always motivated me to improve my performance. Along with that, my teachers at school gave me amazing books to read about sportspersons and other personalities to inspire me to work harder and achieve my goals. Also, some of the instances and conversations with personalities like Sally Pearson, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist in 100m hurdles, with whom I got an opportunity to run the best race of my life. Sharon Hannon, Sally Pearson’s former coach, trained me for ten days in Australia back in 2013 when I became India number 1. PT Usha, who had appreciated me several times for my performance at that same time, also told me my flaws and how I could improve several aspects in running. She also told me how she loved my running. You know, all of this has inspired me and encouraged me to work harder and better. I can’t thank these people enough. 

  1.  What life lessons have you learned from being an athlete?

Athletics has made me who I am today. It has taught me the importance of determination, hard work, focus, patience and most importantly, the “never give up” policy. There’s a bad patch in every sports person’s life. You lose consecutive tournaments, you go through a lot, and probably get the most severe injuries, but it is not the end. You can still come back. Athletics has taught me never ever to lose hope, never to stop believing in myself. It is okay; even if you lose a couple of matches, you always learn from them. It’s; basically, you lose, you win, but you always learn. Athletics has taught me to get over failure and digest success as quickly as possible, to not boast about your success. Instead, learn from them and maintain consistency in your performance. And most importantly, no matter how many matches you lose on the field, you should never lose a match mentally. 

  1. What are the things you are grateful for that came as a consequence of pursuing the sport?

I have got many new friends from all over India because of sports. Even if they were my competitors, there was always a healthy competition between us. My friends from Deccan gymkhana are there for me in the happiest and most challenging times, and we make an incredible team. In the span of about 13 years, I got to learn a lot of things not only related to the sport but also life, and I’m still learning honestly. There were many experiences, some bad, some good, but I am grateful for them as every experience teaches you something. They inculcate a different level of confidence in you which is necessary for your entire life. 

Sridhar Iyer

SY Bsc Economics

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