The Telugu World Column No- 40

Telugus Bring Glory to Nation in Sports too

Normally sports page in a newspaper is the last. So I kept off writing about Telugu sports persons till the end. It is also because of my ignorance as I never did sports in a newspaper as I never played.

Kodi Ramamurthy Naidu, Pullella Gopichand, Karnam Malleswari, P.V. Sudha, Harika and Harikrishna – there are many Telugus who rose to national and even world fame in the field of sports just as there are many non-Telugus residing in the two Telugu states who brought glory to them in the field of sports and games.

This generation may not know Kodi Rammurthy Naidu of Veeraghattam near Srikakulam. He was one of those who proved that strength has nothing to do with meat-eating. Though from a community that is usually not vegetarian, he abstained from non-vegetarian food and yet rose to be a strongman who was conferred the title of Indian Hercules by the King of England. According to Wikipedia Kodi Ramamurthy Naidu (1882–1942),  a bodybuilder, earned great respect for India as a wrestler. He won most tournaments in Punjab as well as internationally. He worked as physical education teacher in a Vizianagaram college and had full knowledge of  Vayu Stambhana  (air resistance) and Jala Stambhana (water resistance).  His circus earned a lot of money but donated it to the charitable trusts and the freedom movement

Born in Veeraghattam, he lost his mother as a child. His father Venkanna sent him to Vizianagaram to an uncle. He learnt kusthi (wrestling) and his uncle Narayana Swamy sent him to a fitness center in Madras. He then joined a Vizianagaram college as PT instructor and turned a vegetarian getting strength purely on plant protein. He demonstrated it by breaking steel chains just by flexing his muscles, stopping motor cars and making an elephant stand on his chest. He achieved fame by stopping the car of Lord Minto the Viceroy of India, from moving. When he saw his skills at the Allahabad Congress session, Pt. Madan Mohan Malaviya was impressed and sent him to London. King George saw his show at Buckingham Palace onferred the title Indian Hercules, Rammurthy told him of Mahabharata’s Bhima and said the Pandava was stronger than Hercules of Greece and Sandow of Prussia; the King then awarded him one more title of Kaliyuga Bhima. He also performed in France, Germany and Spain. In Japan, out of jealousy a broken wooden plank was placed on his chest for the elephant to stand on. It resulted in an injury which prevented him from showing that item later. At a bullfight in Spain he caught a bull by its horns and threw it to the ground! His statues in Visakhapatnam and Veeraghattam and his name given to a Srikakulam stadium, remind us of an eminent Telugu sportsman.

Sportsmen from the Telugu land have brought laurels to India. The first medal won by a woman was by a Telugu girl, Karnam Malleswari. At the Sydney 2000 Olympics she lifted 110kg and 130kg in the ‘snatch’ and ‘clean and jerk’ categories to total 240kg to become the first Indian woman to win an Olympic bronze medal. Born in June 1975 in Amadalavalasa hamlet, Malleswari began her training in the sport at the age of 12 -late by world standards. Women in India are rarely associated with such sports  but this Telugu girl was third in the World Championships in1993 and won world titles in1994 and 1995 a third-place effort in1996 in her category.

Winner of Arjuna (1994), Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna (1999) and the Padma Shri (1999) awards, Malleswari married a fellow weightlifter Rajesh Tyagi in 1997, lives in Haryana and was blessed with a son in 2001. A manager in Food Corporation of India, she founded the Karnam Malleswari Foundation, a weightlifting and powerlifting academy — the first of its kind.

While she won a bronze, another Telugu girl Pusarla Venkata (PV) Sindhu, won a silver medal in badminton and then the World Championship itself. She made international debut in 2009 with a career high ranking of no. 2 in April 2017.  Born in Hyderabad in July 1975, Sindhu became world champion in 2019 at Basel. Both her father Ramana (Arjuna awardee) and mother Vijaya were national volleyball players. She broke into the top 20 of the Badminton World Federation ranking in 2012 at the age of 17, and was in the top 10 for most of her career.  

Pentala Harikrishna was India’s youngest Grandmaster, Commonwealth Chess Champion (2001) and World Junior Champion (2004). A. Ramana Rao received both Dronacharya and Arjuna awards and was the head coach for the 1991 Indian men’s volleyball team at the Asian Volleyball Championships at Perth. Mukhesh Kumar (hockey) represented India in 3 consecutive Olympics, scored 80 goals in 307 internationals and got Arjuna award (1995) and Padma Shri (2003). 

Though not Telugus but belonging to a Telugu state, Sania Mirza is an international tennis star. Yusuf Khan (Football) was in Indian team in the 1960 summer Olympics and played in the gold-winning team in the 1962 Asian Games. He got Arjuna Award in 1966. AP bodybuilder Mir Mohtesham Ali Khan was Mr. India twice and Mr. World silver medalist in 2008.

Javur Jagadeeshappa Shobha was Track and Field winner at 2003 Afro-Asian Games, holds national record and won Arjuna (2004). Neelapu Rami Reddy (Track and Field) was chief coach of South Central Railways and sprints coach of the Indian Railways.  

Indias’ craze for cricket allegedly killed most other games. V. V. S. Laxman and M. L. Jaisimha  were once famous and so was C.K. Naidu though he played for Nagpur (which has his statue) and Indore. Buchhi Babu Naidu is considered the father of south Indian cricket. Cotah Ramaswami played for India in both international cricket and tennis. Many more from Telugu land who are national cricketers – M.Baliah Naidu, M. Suryanarayan (Test), M. S. K. Prasad, Shivlal Yadav, Bharath Reddy (Test 1978–1981), Venugopal Rao, Ambati Rayudu, Venkatapathy Raju, and Rohit Sharma

Koneru Humpy (Chess Grandmaster, Arjuna awardee Sharath Kamal (TT). Chetan Anand and Jwala Gutta (badminton champions), Vikash Dhorasoo (who played for France in 2006 World Cup), A. Ramana Rao (volleyball), D. Rajagopal Rao (‘Indian Tarzan’ weightlifting champion for 13 years from 1945-58)  Srikanth Kidambi (badminton), Laxman Reddy (Mr. World 2010) also brought name to the Telugu states.


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