47-year-old mother of two teens wins 4 golds in powerlifting at Open Asian championships in Russia
Life started at 40 for this 47-year-old mother of two teenagers from Pune, who was introduced to weight training six years ago. Even though Bhavna Tokekar had always maintained an active lifestyle all her life, she started training at the gym six years ago to reduce the side effects of the medicines she took to deal with skin inflammation. Now, she competed at the Open Asian Powerlifting Championships of AWPC/ WPC at Chelyabinsk, Russia on Sunday and won 4 gold medals for the country.
Bhavna, wife of an Indian Air Force fighter pilot, started weight training after members of the IAF bodybuilding team informed her about weight training to increase her strength. “There are many myths surrounding body building, weight lifting and other strength sports, especially related to women, like it is meant only for young people and that it makes the body bulky. I started training initially when I was 41, but I wanted to be sure of it since I didn’t want to injure myself or do the wrong technique since weight lifting is not popular here,” says Bhavna, who is currently in Russia.
That’s where a millennial’s best friend comes into the picture in Bhavna’s story- the Internet. Bhavna, who is a full-time homemaker, started spending time researching and reading about weight lifting through Youtube videos and other websites. For over six years, Bhavna kept training hard every day without a break under the guidance of the IAF’s bodybuilding team and her go-to help - the Internet.
“Taking part in competitions was a far cry for me, as I didn’t know if I could participate in events at this age, or if I would be able to match up to the standards,” says this Maharashtrian who grabbed golds during her first-ever competition in Russia on Sunday, which she got to know about through Instagram.
Introduced only recently to Instagram, Bhavna started following handles on the app which gave out fitness information. That’s how she met World Powerlifting Congress (WPC) Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh state head Mohammed Azmat, whose videos inspired her on a daily basis. “I clearly remember the day I messaged him, it was February 10 and I casually asked him if I could participate in the powerlifting event as a part of team India. Now, powerlifting is very different from weight lifting and hence, when Azmat sir replied that I could come and give trials, I was overwhelmed,” says Bhavna.
Bhavna attended the trials in May this year in Bengaluru and got selected for the Masters2 category (45-50 age group). “I had to undergo technique corrections for powerlifting and I was informed about the rules and regulations. I trained hard with my new technique and was guided by Azmat sir online as well,” adds Bhavna who competed in U67.5 Masters2 Category to bag gold in full powerlifting raw and bench only. Her best lifts were Squat - 85kg, Bench - 62.5kg and Deadlifts - 120kg. “It was exhilarating to witness such great sportspersons at the championship. I could not believe I could perform so well at the world stage,” says Bhavna.
As someone who swore by fitness all her life, weight training has been rewarding. “I initially started this to increase my strength, but now I enjoy weight training. My family supported me in this endeavour and they are my pillars of strength. They helped me follow my training and also came to train with me to the gym. I wish there is more awareness about strength sports in the country,” adds Bhavna, who is already working for her next championship - WPC Worlds 2019.
Bhavna’s husband, Gp Capt S Tokekar, trains with her and also had run two half marathons with her earlier.
About the competition
Organised by the World Powerlifting Congress, the competition aims to provide a chance to athletes all across to participate and show their talent.
500 players took part in the event
14 players from India participated in this championship
WPC is a worldwide federation to which 46 countries are affiliated. Daljit Singh is the president of Barbell club of India or the country head of World Powerlifting Congress India (WPC INDIA).