Vitender Singh Pawar shows his class

WHEN the resourceful R. L. Thiruvengadam, Secretary of the Tamil Nadu Amateur Body Building Association, talked about security, demand for tickets, etc. there was a touch of disbelief among the media personnel.

S. R. Suryanarayan

Vitender Singh Pawar, the Champion of Champions, posing with Amarjeet Malik, (left) President, Indian Body Building Federation and Datuk Paul Chua, Secretary, Asian Body Building Federation.-

WHEN the resourceful R. L. Thiruvengadam, Secretary of the Tamil Nadu Amateur Body Building Association, talked about security, demand for tickets, etc. there was a touch of disbelief among the media personnel. "Tickets? heavy crowd for a national championship?" they wondered and that too in the city, where the best of competitions these days are held in virtually empty settings for most part. The man, who has been honoured with a gold medal by the Asian body for his outstanding services, knew his onions. "You should see the district meet," he said, "nearly two to three thousand people throng the area". If seeing is believing then Thiruvengadam was spot on about the followers of the sport. It was not a packed Nehru indoor stadium as such but a good gathering turned up for the senior National championship which was held in the city after a decade and half. In a huge complex that provided an apt ambience for a competition that involved show of muscles, literally.

From little giants to man mountains there were hulks from various parts of the country vying for not only the champion tag but the most prized award of all — the Champion of Champions title. As M. Kesavan, former President of the Indian Body Building Federation and a pioneer in starting fitness centres in the city, put it: "the Championship showcases all the sacrifices, hard work and perseverance that the body-builders put in all through the year. The shapely muscles, the taut veins and the bulging arms and thighs do not come with ordinary exercise or diet but a string of methodical exercises in the gymnasium backed by stringent intake of food". From under-55 kg category up to 90 kg and upwards around 275 of them came to the city nurturing a dream. But by the end of a hectic day-long phase of elimination many dreams were dashed. However for the best five competitors in each of the nine weight categories qualified there was still that final round in front of not only the judges but the big gathering of enthusiastic followers to take a tilt at the `champion tag'. Such was the interest of the spectators that despite the late hour of finish (close to midnight), a majority stayed put waiting to find who finally clinched the `Champion of Champion' title, earlier called `Mr. India'. That distinguished honour went to Asian silver medallist Vitender Singh Pawar from UP, who had earlier emerged the champion in the 85 kg category. In a setting where the contestants from Services and Railways were nudging the rest, Pawar was a surprise departure from the order. But then this short-statured, serene-faced young man from Saharanpur had the bulk in his arms, torso and thighs. Muscles that were so well spread out and glistening in the strong lights on the stage that his exhibition of the seven mandatory poses proved a class act. Interestingly this time, in keeping with the new rule changes that the Asian Body Building Federation Secretary, Datuk Paul Chua, who was among the dignitaries at the championship, was to apprise the Indian officials, a contestant also had to do a one-minute solo show with music in the background. Opportunities are thus that much more to catch the Judges' eye and surely Pawar was well endowed to get the nod.

Even if the coveted trophy eluded Services and Railways, these two teams assured themselves of the team honours and runner-up spots. Services accumulated 146 points to Railways' 121. Much of these points came in the run up to the championship round in the different weight categories. Railways went ahead initially with V. Suriyanarayanan, S. Kumaranandan (who works for the ICF in Chennai) and Shivkumar bagging the titles in the 55 kg, 60 kg and 65 kg categories. Focus shifted to Services then with Pakta Kumar (70 kg) and E.G. Byju (75 kg) annexing the titles.

All the champions - from left - V. Suriyanarayanan (55 kg), S. Kumaranandan (60 kg), Shivkumar (65 kg), Pakta Kumar (70 kg), E. G. Byju (75 kg), Amit Choudhry (80 kg), Vitender Singh Pawar (85 kg), Avijit Dawan (90 kg) and Rajendran (plus 90 kg).-

Amit Kumar Choudhry of UP then grabbed the 80 kg and the way he exhibited his muscular feats, many thought he could give a close run for the prime award. As it happened it was a close race between him and Pawar, the two who had defied the sweep of the Services and Railway musclemen. Avijit Dawan took the 90 kg and Rajendran the plus 90 kg honours, to send Services well ahead on points en route to the team championship title.

Overall the line up of the nine champions presented a fascinating sight, something Chua, who sat through the entire near-five hour final session, was to acknowledge as a reflection of the vast improvement Indian body builders had made in recent times. With an Asian championship in 2007 likely in India (most probably in Tamil Nadu), and recognition soon in the Asian Games and Olympics, quality performance is the need of the hour. To many regular observers the Chennai show augurs well for Indian body building in the seasons ahead.