“You are very strong and can compete" were the words of her trainer Vivek Singh; these prophetic words led Vilma Saldanha into the sport of Powerlifting in which she has won laurels, she, her state, her country, and its peoples can be proud of!”.
Brian Fernandes spoke to her and filed this report
Vilma Saldanha, a 49-year-old mother of three wonderful girls has just returned triumphant from Ulan Bator in Mongolia, where she won her first International medal, a "Silver" representing India at the Asian Powerlifting Championship in the 63kg Master 1 category. And that is an achievement not only she, but the state, her gender and all mothers should be proud of… Maybe it’s not yet time for Karnataka or her adopted state Maharashtra to whisper her name in the same breath as MC Mary Kom, also the proud mother of three, and the winner of six gold medals in international competition, but she has achieved what she has at a much older age, making it that much more commendable, because, sport and especially a sport such as powerlifting or boxing for that matter, is not easy at any age. Indeed her slight frame belies the power within.
Vilma, speaking on the phone from Ulan Bator, Mongolia, told Newskarnataka.com that “it’s a proud moment for me, certainly, a reward for all the hard work I’ve put in, for my family and of course my state Maharashtra and the country. “Training under Commonwealth Gold Medallist Vinutha Raghunath helped me find my passion and right direction. Dedication, perseverance and hard work reap rewards. Standing on the medal podium and winning medals have been motivating for me a late beginner to the sport”, she added.
Vilma hails from a middle-class Catholic family from Bangalore. Her parents though Agriculturist Dennis D’souza and homemaker Mary D’Souza originally hailed from the undivided Dakshina Kannada. Interestingly she is also from a family of five girls – the only one in the family who showed an interest in sports at a very young age. Excelling in sports at school, she moved on to be the captain of the St. Joseph's College of Arts and Science basketball team. So sport was in her blood and she didn’t give up on that aspiration. On completion of graduation in Environmental Science, she pursued a career in Computers while continuing her passion for sports. Then marriage happened and she was transported to the city of Mumbai, where she chose to be a homemaker and a full-time mother to three vibrant girls Nicole and twins Beverly and Belinda.
We all face health issues at various times in our lives and Vilma was no exception. With the girls all grown up, she chose to take them head on and headed for the gym. What started off as a daily routine to stay fit, healthy and lose weight became an addiction. Vilma says, “I started going to the gym to stay healthy and see how it has turned out. Hard work can take you anywhere!”
"You are very strong and can compete in Power Lifting", her gym trainer Vivek Singh told her. His words transformed her life from a laid-back homemaker, albeit with the sport in her blood, to an accomplished Powerlifter, who has now brought laurels to the country. “I still remember the day my coach said those words to me at the gym I started attending. It was a sport I had never heard of till then!”, Vilma said when asked what prompted her to take up the sport.
In July 2017, she started training under Commonwealth Gold medallist Vinutha Raghunath with immense dedication and perseverance. Vilma says Vinutha understood all her limitations and moulded her and guided her through the early stages of competitive powerlifting. Vinutha continues to guide her and Vilma says “my coach plays a great role in my success”. Her family – Donald her husband and three children too have been very supportive of her participation in the sport. Says Belinda on behalf of her sisters, “We trusted our mom’s ambition and we knew that she would be successful. She not only outdid herself but proved that age is not a factor when u want to achieve your goals”. She represents Maharashtra, in the sport.
She won her first Mumbai district gold and silver at the Maharashtra state competition in November 2107 and went on to win a bronze at her first Nationals in Jan 2018 at Coimbatore in the 72 kgs Master 1 category. There was no looking back after that. It was all about training, training and nutrition. After winning gold at both district and state this year, she completed the hat trick by winning gold at the Nationals in the 63 kgs Master 1 category. And then on to the Asian Powerlifting championships in Mongolia where she brought laurels to the country. There have been ups and down, Vilma says, but the continued support of the right kind of people around is what keeps her going.
“Representing India at the age of 49 and winning the silver medal is one of the best things in my career so far. Holding the Indian flag and receiving my first international medal made me happy and emotional; It’s just the beginning and I have a long way to go. But there is no looking back now”, Vilma signed off.
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