Hyderabad: "Teen bache ki maa hain. Poore money leke baad mein kuch excuse bolegi" (She is a mother of three. She will take the money and make some excuse later) - This was one of the responses that Inturi Rekha, a national medalist in powerlifting from Hyderabad, received when looking for sponsors to fund her international championship.

It has never been easy for Inturi Rekha to win back money and trust after taking a career break. The two-time national medalist is now in search of a sponsor to fund the Moscow International Championship.

Inturi Rekha from Sangareddy district entered powerlifting when she was 13 years old. Since then, she has been participating and winning medals at various competitions. It was in 2004 that she won her first medal in powerlifting at an interschool competition.

After completing her studies, she joined a fitness studio as a trainer. "Everybody encouraged me to take up that job and earn something till I got a government job," says Rekha. Thinking about the expensive training equipment that I needed, I was convinced to take up that job, she adds.

In her inter second year, she got married. Due to familial pressure to have children, Rekha finally left powerlifting in 2009 when she gave birth to a baby girl.

Ten years later, in 2019, Rekha, a mother of three children, divorced her husband and took up the responsibility of looking after her kids. "What followed were difficult days of financial and familial pressure. I even thought of committing suicide, unable to find a job and livelihood," recalls Rekha.


She had almost decided to give up powerlifting completely when she met Sumeth B, her coach. "A girl once told me that she wanted to hold the national flag. When will I get to see it," she clearly remembers the words of her coach. She decided to fight.

In 2020, Rekha took part in the district, state, and national level competitions and won all three. She was also conferred the title 'Strong Woman of India' in 2020. Having won at the national meet, Rekha now had a chance to compete at the international level but she didn't have the money to participate.

Pandemic blues

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, gyms and fitness centres across the country closed. As a result, Rekha lost her only source of livelihood. Things became worse when she was unable to provide her children with the necessary gadgets to attend online classes.

Finally, she had to witness her 13-year-old daughter leave her and go to Assam for her education and sports training.


Lack of government support

"All states provide government jobs to national players. Why not Telangana?" asks Rekha. She explains how all her attempts at seeking help from the government, Opposition party, various leaders, MLAs, and so on have simply been a waste of time and energy.

The situation of sportspersons in the state is deplorable. "We work hard throughout our entire careers and win medals. But when we return, we are welcomed with no jobs, no recognition, no survival," says Rekha, adding, "Back home, we realize that we have achieved nothing."

Need for a permanent solution

What Rekha demands is a permanent solution for funds. "Every time we win at nationals and seek sponsors to go for international competitions, some people think that we are beggars," says Rekha.

"The government should open up vacancies in Railways and postal departments," she adds.

She also points out the lack of facilities for sportspeople in the state. One example that she gives is the Lal Bahadur Stadium in Hyderabad. "It is one of the biggest stadiums in the city but has only two powerlifting sets to practice. At a time, how many can practice?" asks Rekha. Meanwhile, the Gachibowli stadium does not even have a single powerlifting set.

"When a sportsperson decides to end his life, it is only a reflection of poor governance," adds Rekha.

Nimisha S Pradeep

Hailing from Palakkad, Kerala, Nimisha completed her MA in Communication (with a specialization in Print and New Media) from the University of Hyderabad. She has interned with The Hindu Metroplus, Chennai and The Sentinel, Assam. She was a fellow of the NFI Fellowship for Independent Journalists in 2021. In 2015, she attended the Jenesys Student Exchange Programme in Japan. She firmly believes in the power of words and the impact it can make on society. She looks forward to using her career in journalism to voice the issues of minorities. Her interest areas include gender, women and society. She pursues travel, photography, and music in her leisure time.

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