A witness for fitness

Harisankara Varma... physiotherapist of the Indian boxing team.-M. VEDHAN

“As the physio of the boxing team, my core area is rehabilitation and muscle-strengthening,” Harisankara Varma tells S. R. Suryanarayan.

Every sportsperson has to go through the grind, be it in training sessions with the coach or at the physio’s table. After all he or she needs to be moulded and chiselled to shape before entering the arena, irrespective of the sport. So it is in boxing, much more physical than others where the toning of the muscle involves special attention because, as physio Harisankara Varma, the man who looked after the Indian boxers in the London Olympics, put it, “the sport is all about quick movements and sharp punches.” Hari is a native of Kerala but is now well conversant in Hindi, Punjabi and Haryanvi because over the last six years he has been with the boxers, all from the North, and played an important part in their success. During a brief halt in Chennai, Hari, spoke to Sportstar and gave an insight into the training of Indian boxers.

Question: How was it overall in London?

Answer: Good in parts. It would have been great if boxing too had fetched a medal or two. Or else it was a lovely experience in the Olympics. The training area and facilities were excellent. The stay was really good. Every aspect was taken care of, the ambience was wonderful and the volunteers did a great service. No complaints at all on that front.

You have been with the boxing team from the 2006 Doha Asian Games. How has the journey been till date?

As the physio of the boxing team my core area is rehabilitation and muscle-strengthening. For London we continued the same process that was laid out during the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games in Guangzhou. For Vijender Singh, Jai Bhagwan and Manoj Kumar, it was a case of continuing the set plans, while for Vikas Krishan, Devendro Singh, Sumit Sangwan and Shiva Thapa it was a comparatively new experience. The essence of the programme is to tone the core muscle stability on the back. This is essential for quicker movements of the arm and punching. We have seen the results already with seven boxers qualifying for the Olympics for the first time in history.

Do the boxers train till the day of the event or take it easy from the previous day of the competition?

Training schedules do not change, only the volume lessens. Speed work increases and activity is more centred on punching bags and endurance building exercises like skipping. Normally a boxer works for up to six hours a day. This time all the boxers were in great shape, but luck is also a key factor.

And yet they gasp for breath at the end of a bout?

That is because the pressure is not only physical, but mental also. Then again if the opponent is a fighter and not one of the classic mould, he keeps throwing punches. Thus there is physical pain and that can also induce fatigue.

Varma with boxers Shiva Thapa, Vijender Singh and Jai Bhagwan at the Olympic Games Village in London.-PTI

Boxing leads to bruising. How is this tackled?

Vaseline is generally applied on the face so that the punches slip off. All boxers do this at the international level to reduce the intensity of the punches.

Who is the pick among the Indian boxers?

Technically, the best is Vijender, but Thapa and Devendro are catching up fast.

Post competition, what is the routine for the boxers?

They need a break. Like an unstretched elastic that coils, the boxers need to relax their muscles. A month’s rest is the practice.

How do you keep in touch with developments relating to your area of specialisation?

Mostly, the internet. Then, friends and various workshops. London provided a wonderful opportunity through a symposium that was conducted during the Olympics.

Your final word?

Having seen the level of improvement of our boxers from the Commonwealth Games, the Asian Games and now the Olympics, I am confident that boxing will be a major sport to bring in medals for India.