Karnam Malleshwari is retired Indian weightlifter.She is the first Indian woman to win an Olympic medal.She achieved the feat by winning bronze at 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Malleshwari was born on 1st June 1975 in Voosavanipeta,a village in Andhra Pradesh.She started her career at the age of 12 and trained under coach Neelamshetty Appanna.Later she was coached by Belarussian Leonid Taranenko who at that time held the record of 266kg in clean and jerk in 1988.He and her parents saw great potential in Malleshwari.Parents didn’t want her to become a doctor or Engineer but instead had faith in her Weightlifting which saw her making trip to Delhi under the supervision of Sports Authority of India.In 1990,she joined national camp.
Karnam won gold at World Championships at Istanbul in 1994 in 54kg.She followed that with another yellow metal in 1995 World Championships in Guangzhou,China.She won the title there with a record lift of 113kg.She also won gold in 54kg at Asian Weightlifting Championships in Korea the same year.At Hiroshima Asiad in 1994, she won silver in 54kg.Four years later in Bangkok,she won another silver in 63kg.Before her Olympic exploits,she had won 29 international medals for India including 11 gold medals.
At 2000 Sydney Olympics,she lifted 110kg in snatch and 130 kg in ‘clean and jerk.’ categories for a total of 240kg lift which was enough for her to bag the historic bronze.The achievement brought tremendous recognition to her and public dubbed her as ‘Iron Lady’.She is also the first and only Indian woman weightlifter to win an Olympic medal.
At 2004 Olympics in Athens,she gave another shot but poor show prompted her to call it a day.
Malleshwari was awarded with Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna in 1999.She won Arjuna award in 1994 besides winning Padma Shri in 1999.
Life after retirement
Currently she lives in Yamunanagar,Haryana.She works as a CGM at Food Corporation of India.
Karnam Malleshwari’s bronze in 2000 Games had set the tone for other women athletes like M C Mary Kom,Saina Nehwal and P V Sindhu to win medals for India in Olympics.Now in recent years,more and more young Indian female stars are not only shining brightly in Olympic sports like shooting,wrestling and boxing but they are seen at par with men as far as medals at Olympics are concerned.
My happy memories:
The day was 19th September 2000.I was in Satara for my training during which at about 3.15 P.M.I heard news that Karnam Malleshwari won the bronze for India.I was so ecstatic as after Leander Paes in 1996 Atlanta Olympics,Malleshwari did India proud.Few minutes later when I returned to my room,I got another update that Indian hockey team had drew 2-2 with hosts Australia.It was an unforgettable moment for me.
By Shailesh Padhye for Sportsnasha.com