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The karate kid

Madhuri Poovanesan made the switch from dancing to karate and it paid off

21 May 2020 / 13:14 H.

TRYING to pin down young athletes for interviews is hard, especially when they are also balancing school and training.

That is why it took months before we finally got to speak to Kedah girl Madhuri Poovanesan, the 21-year-old SEA Games 2019 gold medal winner.

A soft-spoken Madhuri answered the call at the appointed time. She had just completed her Pre-U studies at Bukit Jalil Sports School, and is waiting to apply to local universities.

She is the eldest of four sisters, and her mother is a teacher while her dad is an engineer. Her sisters have also taken up martial arts.

Madhuri is the eldest of four daughters. – Courtesy of Madhuri Poovanesan
Madhuri is the eldest of four daughters. – Courtesy of Madhuri Poovanesan

Madhuri’s performance during inter-school competitions earned her a place at the Bukit Jalil Sports School, which she transferred to at age 16. Here, along with academics, she has had the best coaches in the country training her.

Currently, she does her workouts at home with some long distance guidance from her coaches.

How old were you when you first took up karate?

“I was 10 years old. I took it up at Permatang Tinggi School. My parents forced me to take up karate.”

How did they force you?

“My mother initially let me take up bharatanatyam. All of a sudden she told me to learn karate, but I didn’t like to fight. I didn’t like martial arts at the time.”

Madhuri (on left) beat Thailand’s Khamsi Tippawan in the 55kg kumite women’s final at the SEA Games 2019 in the Philippines. – Bernama
Madhuri (on left) beat Thailand’s Khamsi Tippawan in the 55kg kumite women’s final at the SEA Games 2019 in the Philippines. – Bernama

What changed?

“I started winning some competitions and that motivated me. Four years after being a part of the school team, I became a part of the state team.”

What was it like when you moved to Kuala Lumpur to study and train?

“It was very difficult for me, because I was always with my parents. But I had to, because that was the only way I could achieve my dreams. So I did it.”

How did you prepare for the SEA Games?

“At my first SEA Games which was held in Kuala Lumpur in 2017, I was part of a team that won the gold. The second time I participated in the SEA Games was in 2019, I competed in the individual category (kumite under 55kg). I just prepared with the help from coaches who motivated me to train hard, and they motivated me on the day of the competition itself.”

Madhuri in action during the SEA Games 2019 in the Philippines. – Bernama
Madhuri in action during the SEA Games 2019 in the Philippines. – Bernama

What about the Olympics that was initially supposed to take place this year?

“They haven’t planned to send me to the Olympics yet. Maybe in the future.”

What is the most important lesson you learned from taking up karate?

“We should not give up until we achieve our goal.”

Do you watch what you eat?

“I have to, because I am still in training. We have a nutritionist to guide us on what we can eat, and what we can’t, during and after competitions. We also have our cheat days. Mine are on Sundays, and that is when I eat my favourite food which is fried chicken.”

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