Winning against all odds
Winning against all odds. Santoshi Matsa’s journey from a small village Kondavelagada in Vizianagaram district of Andhra Pradesh to Glasgow is the...
The youngest daughter of a jute mill coolie who earns Rs 2,000 a month, Santoshi credits her success to her family members – her uncle and coach Ramu, her dad, mom, two sisters and brother – who all were her pillars of support.
Coming from a family that could not afford two square meals a day, it was a tough choice for her to take up weightlifting which demands an expensive diet. When in Class VI, Santoshi decided to take up the sport and it was all due to the encouragement she received from her uncle Ramu, who trains weightlifters. She had to convince her mother by saying that the sport would help her get recognition and perhaps even a job that would help the family financially.
For an undernourished girl like Santoshi to keep up the grueling training schedule for weightlifting was a punishing task. She used to suffer from severe body aches following the four-five hours of daily training. Recognising her need for good nutrition, her uncle gave her a big list of food items she needed to take that included fruits, milk, eggs, dry fruits and protein powder. Knowing well the condition of her family, Santoshi remained mum, but her siblings and parents started cutting down on their needs to save money for her. Within a year of training, she had begun to take part in tournaments and win medals and that convinced her family that she was destined for great things. Her first major win was the gold medal at the national competitions held in Visakhapatnam in 2005. Her family members were overjoyed by her success and told her that no matter what kind of hardship they had to face, she was their priority. This gave her the strength of a 100 elephants, she says.
Meanwhile, the cost of Santoshi’s training kept increasing each year. Her father used to borrow money to buy fruits and clothes for her. Her uncle Ramu also helped her financially. Once when she needed Rs 5,000 to attend a national meet in Manipur, her sister sold her gold earrings to pay for her trip. Santoshi on her part, returned home with a gold medal. The cost of her training kept increasing and to pay off the debts, the family had to sell the 70 cents of land that they owned. When she came to know of it Santoshi couldn’t stop crying. There were times when she wanted to give up on the sport, but her family always encouraged her not to give up the sport.
Despite winning medals at the national level, Santoshi had to practice even without the basic amenities. She used to practice weightlifting in the premises of the village temple. When people objected to it, she had to practice in the field of her coach suffering the searing sun during the day and mosquitoes in the evening. When it rained she had to forego practice. Given that there was no weightlifting equipment for women available in the village she had to practice with the equipment which was meant for men. And when she went for tourneys, adjusting to the new equipment was a problem for her. Fortunately, three years ago, the sports authorities in Vizianagaram provided equipment for women.
So far, Santoshi has travelled to China, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, South Africa and many other countries because of her sport but never once could her parents accompany her because of their financial position. It’s my dream, she says, to get a good job and take my parents to at least one foreign country.
With her recent bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games Santoshi has won a total of 13 medals in international events and a many more in national events. Due to her rigorous training and travel schedule, Santoshi had to discontinue her studies for a while after Class IX. Later she took her Class X examination and was able to clear it. She is currently studying Intermediate.