It was September 19, 2000, when the legendary weightlifter Karnam Malleswari won the bronze medal (69 kg) in the Sydney Olympics and became the first Indian woman to win an Olympic medal. A lift of 110 kg in snatch and 130 kg in clean and jerk earned the woman from Andhra Pradesh a podium finish in the 69-kg weight category as well as a distinguished place in the history of Indian sports.
According to media reports during that time, a miscalculation led to Malleswari lifting 137.5 kg in her final attempt for a shot at gold, in which she failed. But it later came to light that even if she had lifted 132.5 kg, the gold would have been hers.
In a report of India Today by Rohit Brijnath, it was described how no one gave much attention to Malleswari. Only four out of 42 Indian journalists had turned up to see her compete and till two hours before the competition, people thought she was a tourist.
Here’s everything you need to know about Kamam Malleswari:
- Born in a small village of Andhra Pradesh called Srikakulamn, Malleswari did not have much luxury to practice weightlifting in her village. So, she would walk to a nearby gymnasium from her home at the tender age of 12.
- Her father and some relatives weren’t very keen on the idea of Malleswari and her sisters competing in weightlifting.
- She started participating in various state and national level competitions. Her mother would accompany her with all the necessary household needs to serve her daughter with a hot and nutritional meal.
- She kicked off her glorious career in the year 1991 when a 16-year-old Malleswari won silver at the 1991 Senior Nationals held in Ambala.
- Malleswari, in 1995, again won the gold in the 54 kg at the 1995 World Championships in Guangzhou. In 1996, she had to settle for a bronze.
- By the time she prepared for Olympics, she had won 29 International medals, of which 11 were gold.
- Besides winning the gold, she had also set the world record, lifting a total of 202.5 kg.
- Malleswari gave birth to a son in 2001. She decided not to participate in the 2002 Commonwealth Games, due to the death of her father. Later, she had an unsuccessful 2004 Athen Olympics. She soon announced her retirement, and forever remembered as the Iron Lady of India.