2010: Ace powerlifter Nidhi Singh Patel wins silver in Asian Benchpress Championships in Manila.
2011: Nidhi Singh Patel wins a bronze at the Asian Benchpress Championships in Taiwan.
2011: Nidhi Singh Patel bags three gold medals at the Commonwealth Powerlifting Championships.
2015: Nidhi Singh Patel wins bronze at the 2015 Asian Powerlifting Championship in Hong Kong.
2015: Nidhi Singh Patel wins gold medal at the Asian Bench Press held in Oman in the first week of October.
Cut to October 2015 and Nidhi Singh Patel does not have monetary support to travel to Canada for her sixth international championship.
A native of Pachevara village of Mirzapur district in Uttar Pradesh, Nidhi is on the brink of losing hope to go for her sixth international championship. So disillusioned is this powerhouse of talent that she wants to bid adieu to the game forever.
“Each time, I am invited to participate in an international event, I have to go around asking people for donations to sponsor my trip. It feels quite embarrassing,” says this 26-year-old talented powerlifter. Her father retired from service as a fourth grade employee at a local college this year and does not have enough money to fund her daughter’s foreign trips. They live in a mud house in the village.
She is the second in a family of four siblings, her two younger brothers are still in school and she as such becomes the sole earning member in the family. She requires nearly Rs 2.5 lakh for her Canada trip, an amount which needs to be collected and handed over to the organisers by October 18. As on date, not a single penny has come in and she and her coach are doing it all to ensure that money comes in.
But deep inside, Nidhi is disillusioned and is unhappy with the fact that each time an opportunity knocks on her doors, she has to address press meets, highlight her achievements, and do all sorts of PR stints to raise funds. The state government, for all its tall talks, has not supported Nidhi with even a single penny till date.
“Each time, we approach them, we are told that her file has been sent to Lucknow for further processing, but nothing seems to happen thereafter and we have to resort to the same formula to raise funds,” says her coach Kamlapati Tripathi.
A talented powerlifter
Nidhi developed an interest in powerlifting when she was in sixth standard. Her coach’s mother was a sports teacher where Nidhi studied and her father worked, so it was she who put in a word to her son to train Nidhi.
Kamlapati, who was then working in Agra for a paltry monthly salary of 3,500 as a coach, decided to call it quits and landed in his village to train youngsters in powerlifting.
“She was very talented. In the afternoon hours, when no one would be around, Nidhi would come and train even then. Her junoon (dedication) to the game was something else,” says Kamlapati.
Nidhi used to practice with stones to get a hands-on and thus mastered the game. “I get up at 4.30 and practice between 5 and 8 am,” says Nidhi.
A freaky accident
In 2012, Nidhi met with an accident when she was on her way back from Ashtabhuja Temple in her village. It was winters and the weather being foggy, sighting was a problem and Nidhi fell down from a motorcycle and her head hit a boulder in the hilly terrain, rendering her unconscious. She went into coma for the next three days and used to vomit and had severe back pains on gaining consciousness thereafter.
Though she limped back to normalcy, she had to miss out on action in the period between 2012 and 2014.
Her family was not able to provide a suitable diet required for a powerlifter, and soon Nidhi developed a gap in her back due to heavy training.
The coach’s story
It was Kamlapati’s story of deprivation that prompted him to leave his job in Agra and get back to his village in Pachera. “I couldn’t participate in an international championship which was to be held in Japan because of paucity of funds. So it was always a dream for me to send some of my students to participate in championships abroad. I realised a bit of it through Nidhi but it is actually very disappointing to see paucity of funds come between her and her bright future each time,” says Kamlapati. He himself runs two fitness centres, one each in the village and the town of Mirzapur to sustain livelihood.
Incidentally, Nidhi had to give her first overseas tournament in the US a miss due to shortage of money.
For someone who started without proper equipment and only later got access to it, thanks to contributions from her villagers, Nidhi has indeed come a long way just by way of sheer determination. It would indeed be sad if this powerhouse of talent, who got India so many laurels, goes unnoticed.