Meet Vignesh Hariharan, South India’s first World Kettlebell Champion

Standing on a podium with your country’s flag held high, as the national anthem plays out, is a dream for every athlete. For 34-year-old Vignesh Hariharan, this wish came true last month. At the 27th IGSF Kettlebell World Championship 2019 held last month in Victoria, Australia, Vignesh was crowned as the World Champion, the first person in South India to be awarded the title.

Competing against 45 athletes from seven countries including Australia, Russia, Ukraine and Sri Lanka, Vignesh bagged gold in the Biathlon event and silver in the Half Marathon event, where participants need to lift kettlebells for 30 minutes continuously.

“Kettlebells push your endurance as you need to hold them for at least 10 minutes without dropping. It builds your stamina, cardiovascular and mental strength,” he says. He credits his success to his coach Arnav Sarkar from Kolkata, with whom he has been training for nearly two and a half years, progressively increasing his weight capacity from 15 to 48 kilograms.

The athlete has traversed a long journey of 20 years in athletics as well as cricket, one that saw many failures until five years ago, when he stumbled upon kettlebell lifting. In 2018, he won the Asia Kettlebell Championship. Vignesh founded Hammer Fitness in 2014, a centre that offers body sculpting, high intensity interval training, plyometrics and boxing among others. Apart from this, he also trains young kids; last year, nine out of his 36 students went on to win medals at the National Kettlebell Championships.

Clearing misconceptions about sports is one of the many things he aims to do as an instructor: “I want to abolish the myth that sportspersons need to consume meat to become stronger. I am a vegetarian and my daily meal consists of vegetables, fruits and lots of nuts, accentuated by whey protein powder.”

However, his most important takeaway has been that competitive sports do not have age limits: “I competed against 60-year-old men from Russia. This goes on to show that you can start at any age, train passionately for a few years and the World Championship will be within your reach.”

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