Bengaluru teen Surya Radhakrishnan’s path to powerlifting success

Surya Radhakrishnan at World Powerlifting Congress/Amateur World Powerlifting Congress (WPC/AWPC) Open World Cup in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Surya Radhakrishnan started training at her parents’ gym in Bengaluru during this summer. With the father, Vivek, being a national-level cyclist and the mother, Namu, a triathlete, she too was keen to pick up a sport. Namu found her daughter to be innately strong. So, she let her train with their gym trainer. Surya slid into the gym routine like a smoothly turning key in a well-oiled lock — effortlessly fitting into each workout and occasionally unlocking new challenges. Her parents and coach were surprised by her swift progress. Soon, she was lifting the weights her father was lifting.

Even they would not have expected her to win a medal at an international event within a few months of starting training. But Surya, last month, won four gold medals in the teenagers (female), 60 kg category at the World Powerlifting Congress/Amateur World Powerlifting Congress (WPC/AWPC) Open World Cup in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

The turning point came when Surya’s mother discovered a post on Instagram featuring Noah Eappen, a girl her age, who had triumphed at the earlier edition of the same event. The spark ignited, leading to a connection with coach Azzy, who saw the potential in Surya and guided her into the world of powerlifting.

“I started lifting pretty heavy weights, the same as my dad. I learned about powerlifting, and my coach Azzy guided me as he felt I had good potential,” says Surya.

At 14, what propels Surya is not just the thrill of lifting heavy weights; it is the joy she finds in constant improvement. Encouraged by her coaches and family, she navigates a demanding schedule that includes training three days a week before school and longer sessions at Azzy’s gym in the evenings. The commute is exhausting, but Surya’s commitment to the sport remains unwavering.

“Winning medals at recent completions has been motivating. But I enjoy the process as well,” says Surya.

The “process” of waking up at 4:30 am, training, then going to school, training again, and resting to be ready for the next day might not sound enjoyable. But she likes it because the sport teaches her things she can apply to other areas of life.

“It has made me more disciplined. I have to wake up early and stick to my routines, only then can I achieve my goals.”

“It has also taught me that progress isn’t linear. Sometimes, you might struggle with a lift that you usually find manageable. But it’s part of the process and doesn’t mean a lack of progress or ability. The next day, you might surprise yourself by lifting a heavier weight. So, you can have setbacks. But they needn’t stop your journey,” she adds.

The balancing act between school commitments and powerlifting is tough. However, she squeezes in workouts before school, completes homework outside her gym schedule, and prioritizes sleep and nutrition to ensure optimal recovery. But all these discomforts paid off when she stood atop the podium in Bishkek adorned with four gold medals.

“It’s probably my proudest accomplishment ever,” she says.

Surya says about her plans with powerlifting, “Well, I’m going to keep training and trying my best. Whatever competition my coach says to do, I’ll try to qualify. I want to do this for at least one or two more years. So, I’ll see where that takes me.”

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