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You could take your pick of players for Indian woman quartermiler this list, given how exceptionally they've been training under Galina Bukharina. But one, in particular, has taken a big leap in performance levels: V.K. Vismaya.
A weaving runner with flashy speed, V.K. Vismaya has gone from strength to strength to produce series of personal best timing of 52s in 2019, and though there's still plenty more work to be done on her finishing, that's also on the up.
Fisto Sports was able to interview the Kerala speedster to reflect on her amazing journey so far, and what she's been up to in the lockdown and get to know more one of the nation’s bright young stars in track & field.
It’s been a crazy few weeks, what have you been upto? Tell us how you have been spending your time & what precautions are you taking to battle this virus?
I’ve been spending most of my time maintaining fitness and learning to cook. I have been following the general precautionary measures advised such as maintaining social distance, washing hands frequently and using a mask when coughing or sneezing.
What are the two activities you enjoy the most during the lockdown?
Maintaining fitness, and TikTok.
Lockdowns have prompted athletes across the world to come up with creative ways to stay in shape? How do you keep yourself fit and healthy while heeding the new advice about staying at home?
I have chalked out a proper diet with respect to nutrition. In addition, some core stability, cardio and some explosive exercises does the job for me.
Rescheduling the Tokyo Games seems to be a blessing for few athletes. What’s your opinion? Do you believe that you will get more time to practice to hit high marks in the timings?
We were well prepared and all up for Olympics, but due to circumstances beyond the control it’s been put back and we are with the decision, as health and safety is the utmost concern and of more importance for all the athletes. More time means, we will also get more time to shape ourselves better.
You have been solid in the past two, three years, at what point did you feel your confidence in your ability growing stronger that you could not only become of the best in your state, but one of the better middle-distance runners in the country?
I am happy and satisfied with the achievements I have accomplished thus far. Achieving so much within such a short span if time was out of my expectations. It’s not only my accomplishments, I would like to accredit my family, coaches and well wishers too. Through dedication and hardwork I have been performing great at this level and it has taught to keep fighting harder and never give up on facing tough times.
The current Indian squad is deep with a lot of great runners who have accomplished a lot as well as such as Poovama and Anas among others. How helpful has it been to have those type of runners to train with as well as be part of a successful team?
We are one family and not competitors. I am happy to be a part of the 400 Meter Indian team. During workouts, everyone pushes each other and supports each other which has allowed our team to have a lot of depth and success. Off the track, we motivate each other and have fun and on track of course, we hold the sportsmanship spirit and face the competitors.
When you first started out running...did you view yourself more as a sprinter, hurdler or distance runner. But later you switched completely to middle-distance running. Why so?
I started my career as a 400 meter hurdler when I was in 11th standard and I was prone to injury and I felt it very difficult and 400 meter is such an event where I figured I could gain sustained improvement as my speed and endurance level was equally good and so I changed my event to 400 meter when I was pursuing my college degree.
Let’s back track a little. Please tell us the story of your first training session with group under Galina Bukharina. You quickly caught the group, beat several seniors as well. At the time, she thought, “well, this little girl can really run!” What impact has coach Galina Bukharina had on your life on and off the track?
At the present, I dedicate all of my achievements to my coach. It was her sole belief in me that imbibed confidence and helped me win three International wins consecutively. She has rendered great advise and taught me to be mentally strong on the track. She is a very amicable person off track and has made all of us feel home.
Qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics must have been a huge thrill and a great reward for all the hard work. Do you think that you and your team can win a medal at the Summer Games next year?
Standing at the podium in the Olympics, is not only my dream, it is a dream of our entire nation. As of now, predicting anything is impossible. My team is working really hard and I will assure you to give our best at the Olympics.
2018 Asian Games was your turning point, what are you memories of the Asian Games Opening Ceremony and life in the Jakarta Village? How happy were you with your awesome performance?
That was my first International experience. It was one incredible experience. I did not imagine myself to be on the podium holding the Indian flag, when the National Anthem was being played. I remember the last trial that was held two days prior the Asian games as if it was yesterday. I won that race and Coach Galina told me I will be running the anchor leg. Yes, at the beginning, I was not that confident but the team and the coach trusted me and I am happy to have made it through the final with a gold winning run. The experience at the Village was great, I received great exposure as I met some high-performance athletes and coaches from other countries.
What is your pre-race meal? And then your favourite food to eat post-race (if you could have absolutely anything).
I have no specific -race or post-race meal. I have what I like.
Can you describe your running style? Which is your strong point curves or straight
I have good knee light and good speed which are my major pros and both are quite strong but it is subjective to the flow of the race.
Now for some random, rapid fire questions for the audience… do you listen to music while you run? If so, what do you listen to? And what are a few of your current favourite songs/artists?
I like to listen to music when I’m off the track. When I’m on track I like to be fully focused on my training.
Your story is truly inspiring and running has played a massive part of it all. But I have to ask if you could go pro in other sport than running, what would it be?
Favourite foods and are you a good cook?
I am just learning to cook in the quarantine. Once I master the art, I’ll let you know.
Kappa Biryani and all kind of homemade foods
Who are your running idols?
I learn from every athlete. I would consider everybody my idols and I have immense respect for every athlete all over the world.
Any hidden talents or facts about yourself people would be surprised to know?
Before getting into to athletics, I was very active in drama, script writing and poetry.
Do you remember your first ever race?
It seems to be very funny when I try to remember it. I ran 50 metres race at my school sports day, wearing uniform skirt. That was my first ever race. But my first 400 metre race was at the M G University Athletic Meet in 2014 when I was in my 5th standard.
What's the furthest distance you have ever run?
I ran 4kms during a training session in my college.