Meghana Gundlapally has been India’s top rhythmic gymnast. Even after starting at an old age she hasn’t allowed the age factor to affect her performances.
Hard work and dedication is what has brought her to the level she is right now.
She took inspiration from the circumstances and difficulties and now is an inspiration for millions.
Check out this amazing interview given my Meghana Gundlapally to SportsBeatsIndia.
If you had to explain rhythmic gymnastics to common people how you would explain it and what was the reason you chose it?
Rhythmic Gymnastics is a part of Gymnastics and it is started at a very young age much similar like Artistic Gymnastics. We use 4 apparatus that is hoop, ball, clubs and ribbons.
It is an all women sport. We have to perform a routine of 1 minute 30 seconds using any of the apparatus. In that time span we have to develop and kind off explain the story to the crowd through that performance. The performance includes music with the help of which we express our self.
Gymnastics requires a lot of flexibility and movement. Your body should be built like that, so when did you actually start training for it? Does the age factor affect your progress?
As I said before, gymnastic should be started at a very young age of 3 or 4 years. The main factor that affects rhythmic gymnastics is flexibility. The advantage of starting at such a young age is that your body is soft and making it flexible at a young age is possible. If you start at such an early age the chances that your body remains flexible for a longer time are more.
I started my gymnastics career at the age of 11and half – 12 and that somehow affected my progress. I had to work twice as hard as others as they had started the gymnastics very early and I took a longer period of time.
I used to do the Indian classical dance Kuchhipudi so it kind of helped me.
Despite starting so late in your career you have managed to represent India at the highest level. How is that feeling?
It is like one of the greatest feelings for me. The way I started and the way I used to train, like there were hardly any people whom I can train with. It was extremely difficult for me to hire a coach and the facilities available here were not so good.
It actually feels amazing watching my hard work pay off. I am happy where I am today.
Rhythmic gymnastics is something other than the traditional sports, so when you chose this what were your parents’ reactions and how did they support you?
My parents were always by my side. Especially my father, he always told me that school is not going anywhere and focusing on your sport right now is extremely important. You can complete your education at an older age. But if you miss out your training at this age you might not be that successful afterwards.
Their support has been extremely important for me and they made sure that they provide me with the best facilities may it be with training or the equipment.
Your journey up till now has been amazing. What was the point when you started gymnastics and why?
Actually my brother used to go to gymnastics classes and I used to accompany him. One day I saw him jumping on the trampoline and it seemed to be a fun factor. The next day I also joined the gymnastics classes and that’s when I started my career.
In 2010 Commonwealth Games I first saw rhythmic gymnastics event live. I saw gymnasts representing their country with full pride and honour. And that’s when I decided that this is what I want to do in my life.
Coaches play an important role in everyone’s career. So who are the coaches you were blessed with and how much important role they have played in your life?
I would say Brij Kishore Sir, the one who brought me into gymnastics. Basically he was an artistic coach but he helped me a lot in building my body and flexibility. He has played an important role in my life.
Apart from him I cannot name one particular coach because I have been with many coaches and each one has contributed a lot in my career. I have learnt many things from each one of them and their experiences have helped me a lot.
Each successful career has a turning point. What was the turning point in your career?
I would say the 2014 Commonwealth Team selection trials proved to be extremely important for me. Participating at the Commonwealth Games was a dream for me. I couldn’t get selected in the team and that motivated me even more to work harder. With a lot of determination and hard work I trained really hard and it paid off in 2015 as I got a gold medal in the nationals held at Kerala.
If we compare rhythmic gymnastics to some other sports or games it seems to be a lot more beautiful and it involves a lot of art. So do you need some artistic point of you to perform this kind of formats?
Definitely if you go in the details of this sport, this is the only sport where you have to express yourself and make sure that the crowd understand what you want to explain.
I would say rhythmic gymnastics is like a theatre where you go and see what the stage artist want to express and you catch those emotions. I used to do the Indian classical dance so I think it covered a bit of that artistic point of view.
While watching your performances I have noticed that coordination with yourself and temperament is extremely important. So what are the things you do to improve this qualities?
Yes, as you said coordination is extremely important. According to me all those qualities come from practice. I practice the same steps the same routine over and over again which makes it look beautiful.
There are no special things that I do to maintain these qualities but the training I go through makes sure that these qualities are nurtured.
I think perfection is the most important thing in rhythmic gymnastics and if you are perfect in your act, it increases your chances of winning a medal. So what kind of patience you require while performing and even practicing for that 1 minute 30 seconds performance?
See that one and half minute performance can change your entire life. We practice for 6 to 8 hours a day for that one performance and we do the same routine again and again. If I go wrong somewhere in a step, I make sure that I start the routine again and practice till I don’t get the whole performance right.
So yes a lot of patience is required and it is built with that process.
After watching some of your performances, anybody would say that you are extremely confident while performing. From where does this confidence come?
I don’t think that I do something special to be confident while performing. The only thing I do is that I enjoy my performance. From the start itself I don’t have a stage fear so while performing I don’t have any fear in my mind and I just express myself which somehow helps me in my performance.
Gymnastics in India is not so popular so what kind of support do you expect from the Indian people?
I would say that the basic problem is that people are not aware about other sports. They mainly focus on popular sports like cricket and badminton. The main thing that needs to be changed is that people need to be aware about the other sports as well. Apart from gymnastics there are so many sports that need recognition.
If people are more aware, there are more chances that other sports and games gain recognition as well.
Gymnastics in India is somehow gaining recognition and the progress has been good over the past few years. With the on-going progress where do you see Indian gymnastics in upcoming few years?
Artistic gymnastics gained popularity after Deepa Karmakar’s brilliant performance at the 2016 Olympics. Even many younger players have won medals at the world cups and international tournaments.
Young gymnasts of both the categories are getting trained under the best coaches in India and they are even provided with amazing facilities. So in upcoming few years gymnastics will definitely gain a lot of popularity and India will have a successful campaign at the international tournaments.
Who was your role model and whom do you see as the main source of inspiration?
I don’t think that I have any particular person as my role model, but I got inspired by observing the athletes who represent the countries and win laurels for their countries. They inspired me and I decided that I want to be the person who would inspire other people. I don’t want to be like someone else but other people should love to be like me. So this thought has always kept me motivated.
Definitely ma’am. The way you have been performing and your success has definitely inspired millions of people and certainly you would be the reason that many young kids would start gymnastics.
Please tell us something about you and Varvara Filou. What kind of change you noticed in yourself after training with her?
She was my coach before the 2018 Commonwealth games. She had participated in the 2016 Rio Olympics and was one of the best during that time. She had trained at the best centre for gymnastics in Russia. Her help and guidance proved to be extremely important for me. I found all new ways of training and different techniques. Her experience and knowledge in gymnastics helped me a lot and it improved me as a gymnast.
The main positive change I saw in myself was that I became more of a mature person than I was before. The way I approached the tournaments and the way I thought about it had a massive change. I would say that my technique was improved and apart from gymnastics, travelling with her made me a better person then I was before.
How do you face criticism and negative side of life?
Basically I take the criticism on a positive note. Taking this positively makes me improve my performances and it keeps me inspiring that I have to do a lot better in this field. Where I am now is a good position but I can be at a better position. People are going to criticize you for whatever you do in life but one day will come when they don’t have anything to fire at you.
I think I was brought up that way that I won’t take things negatively but make sure that even the criticism makes a positive impact on me. I have travelled a lot so might be that has also helped me to be a better person.
Each career has a successful planning. You might have also planned your career. So what is your final aim of life?
I would say Olympics are the ultimate aim for everyone. It is the greatest platform where we can win medals.
But from my personal point of view if I ever win a Commonwealth Games Gold medal it would be my greatest achievement. Because, CWG was the platform where I decided that I want to do gymnastics as a full-time profession, so winning a Commonwealth medal would be a great success for me.
What is your message to the youth?
I would tell the young generation that don’t give up. For achieving something you need to keep an aim and for keeping an aim you need to dream.
Don’t be afraid to dream big. Work as hard as possible and try to overcome all the circumstances and difficulties you face.
I started late, so I was told by many people that I won’t be able to succeed but I didn’t pay attention to them and just focused on my dream. So keep dreaming until you achieve your dream.
Let’s take a rapid fire round for fun. I’ll give you two options and you have to choose one 1 with a good explanation.
World Championships Olympics?
For me it would be definitely and Olympic medal. The main reason is that Olympic is a multi-sport event and only top 25 qualify for the Olympics.
Again speaking, for me Commonwealth Games gold medal is the most that I would love to have.
Training in India or abroad?
I cannot actually choose one, but I would definitely love to train in India. but considering the facilities and coaching I am forced to train abroad. Given a choice I would train in India.
Which performance you love the most CWG 2018 or 2018 World Sofia qualification performance?
I would choose Commonwealth Games performance. Being there at the Commonwealth games and performing was a wonderful feeling for me and it made me proud. I almost took eight years to perform at that platform and therefore this performance means a lot to me.
Just a fun question. Which song you would love to choose Badtameez Dil aur Aaja Nachle?
Well both the songs are my favourite but I would choose Aaja Nachle over Badtameez Dil because of the beautiful video.
Ribbon or hoop? Which format you love the most?
The one I love the most is the ribbon performance but I am a lot more comfortable with the hoop.
This has indeed been a great inspirational story for all of us. Learning from the mistakes and improving them is what makes you successful and we can definitely learn this from Meghana’s story.