A 4 ft 7 inch web firm owner from Andheri is back from Moscow with top honour at the World Powerlifting Congress
How did a 41-year-old web entrepreneur beat 3,600 participants to win the World Powerlifting Congress? Andheri resident Bhavna Shah agrees it's difficult to imagine, especially since she had battled ill health for long. At just 4'7" and weighing 35 kilos, Shah was unable to carry out daily chores without letting sickness hurt or tire her. "And my hormones were all over the place. I was tired of feeling weak, so I began to visit the gym," she recalls. What set her apart from other female gym goers was that she readily embraced weight training. She says she has completed a round of medical tests, and her gynaecologist tells her that her internal health is that of a 25-year-old.
Shah owes the turnaround to powerlifting, a sport that she credits with not only gifting her a healthy body and mind, but also four gold medals at the recently-concluded World Powerlifting Congress in Moscow. The Gujarati girl upped her daily gym routine one and a half years ago when she met international powerlifter Mohammed Azmat, who told Shah that despite her petite frame, she had it in her to go the long haul. Powerlifting is a strength sport that demands that the contestant pick up weight almost double their body weight. It involves the athlete attempting a maximal weight single lift of a barbell loaded with weight plates. "It's not faster or anything. It's just heavier," Shah explains.
But it took her time to get here, and coach Rayo Jilla has been her collaborator.
Shah, who now weighs 41 kg, started off with lifting 30kg, and then 50. Today, she can lift 80 kg. A national competition in May organised by the India Raw Powerlifting Federation saw her bring home six medals. That's when she knew she was going to Russia for the big win.
While Shah is lucky to have received support from her husband, Kunal, and family, the rest of the world hasn't always been kind. "My family was worried to start with; they thought I would hurt myself. But they got okay with the idea over time. Acquaintances, on the other hand, thought it was not 'lady like'. They were too opinionated for their own good."
Ironically, Shah realised that powerlifting solved some of the health niggles associated with being a woman, including a temperamental menstrual cycle. "I realise that we, Indians, don't take fitness seriously. People as young as 35 are overweight. I think you can actually reverse ageing by lifting weights," she says.
Shah was inundated with selfie requests after she won the honour in Moscow.
"Nobody believed a little woman like myself could lift all that weight! They all fell in love with me there."