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Para Sports

"Aim small, miss small": Geeta Rao pedals her way to becoming India's first cyclist at the Paralympics

There seems to be no stopping Geeta Rao as she continues her quest to be the first Indian cyclist at the Paralympics after attaining a silver medal at the recent Asian Championships

Para cyclist geeta rao
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Geeta Rao

By

C.C. Chengappa

Updated: 2022-04-08T18:50:06+05:30

One of the untold and often misunderstood facets of an athlete's career is the mental well-being and strength required to compete. Any individual who has played a sport at a certain level would understand the pressure that comes with competing, winning and performing consistently. There is a lot at stake in a field where the margin for error is immensely small.

Geeta Rao is one such athlete who has managed to quell all stigmas and mindsets associated with disabled individuals. Her story is one that begins from a very young age where the concept of mental strength was virtually non-existent. Her transformation over the years deserves to be narrated for the sake of all athletes willing to go the extra mile to achieve their dreams.

The Bridge managed to catch up with Geeta Rao for the second time since she began her fantastic career. She opened up about several key issues that were personal to her after her recent silver medal win at the Asian Road and Paracycling Championships 2022.

Systematic Development for Success

With regards to her recent silver medal victory, Geeta Rao credits her entire success to how she has managed to approach cycling as a 'way of life'. To begin with, her emphasis was only on doing things that she loved with cycling being a passion she picked up from an early age. She also managed to set her goals early in life and maintained a steady trajectory towards achieving them with discipline and an unwavering focus.

"Even though my end goal has always been to compete at the Paralympics, I have ensured my progress in cycling has been systematic through the years. I feel this is extremely important for one to build their career, especially in the field of sports".

However, in order to achieve her physical potential, Geeta Rao tested herself in uncomfortable situations as part of her training. She specifically reflects on how she competed in general categories with individuals who were not physically disabled.

This was beneficial with regard to her competitive capabilities as it ensured that her efforts and endurance gradually improved over time. As a result, she saw herself moving up the endurance distance hierarchy with achievements of covering 200km, 400km, 600km and 1000km.

Mental strength is one important topic that Geeta Rao reflects on as a crucial aspect of her mode and method of functioning. Time and again, athletes from around the world have emphasized the need to focus on overcoming mental battles with realistic goals and achievements.

Geeta Rao also identifies mental preparation and conditioning as key elements of her competitive spirit. "Incidentally, even my mindset for the Asian Championships was one which was prepared to only go participate and gain the necessary experience from. I was told to not expect much in terms of medal success but to focus on improving myself individually."

Despite this, she managed to create history by becoming the first woman from Gujarat to win an international medal in cycling. This by all means is no small achievement and is hopefully the first of many for her.

Indian contingent at Dushanbe

Development of Cycling

An extremely pertinent issue that Geeta Rao delves into is the promotion of cycling in India. There is no doubt that India has not done enough to promote cycling in the country despite having the potential to achieve major accolades on an international stage. Events like the Tour De France and Olympics do not see Indian competitors at all. The first step that must be undertaken according to her is the acknowledgement of cycling as an 'unpopular' sport in the country. This helps establish the requirement of popularising it with necessary investment and training.

The next step however would be to promote this amongst the youth in a manner that makes them fall in love with cycling. This according to Geeta Rao should be done naturally and not forced upon children.

"I feel that children should be allowed to explore as many sports as possible when they are young. Cycling should ideally be promoted only if and when they fall in love with it. After you enter cycling, fix your focus and aim as to whether you want to go into endurance or racing etc. There are a lot of opportunities for youngsters in cycling since it is gradually gaining popularity in India."

By building on her own success story, Geeta Rao is creating a lifestyle to look forward to for youngsters in professional cycling. At a time when discussions have begun to make the sport popular in India, there is a need for role models and idols who can lead from the front. Geeta Rao is one such role model who has built her own legacy which can act as a catalyst for change in the outlook towards cycling in the years to come.

At the podium

Future Plans

In her concluding remarks, Geeta Rao emphasized her plan to compete in the Paralympics in the coming years.

"This has always been my dream and I will do all it takes to reach my goal. My special thanks also go out to the Gujarat State Cycling Association, Sports Authority of Gujarat, Cycling Federation of India and the Paralympic Committee of India. Their support has been instrumental for me over the past few years."

It is heartening to see such vigour and determination coming from a woman who has had to overcome multiple obstacles thrown at her both on and off the race track. Her story will go long way in inspiring para sportspersons to dream big and achieve what they intend to from an early age.

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